Italian food is in my blood. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me sitting on the kitchen counter watching my 100% Italian mother create delicious traditional Southern Italian food.
My love for cooking was born in my mom’s kitchen acting as her pint sized sous chef climbing the counter top to get herbs and spices from the spice rack. The recipes used were passed down to her from my grandmother who was born in Naples who had these recipes passed down to her from my great-grandmother.
Each generation put their own style on the original recipes that go back further than anyone in my family can trace. My mother came up during the low-fat, low cholesterol craze when Americans moved away from traditional ways of eating. When I was a kid we used low-fat dairy, meat off the bone, and trimmed the fat.
My mark will be to take my mom’s recipes and bring them back to their traditional roots the way my grandmother and great-grandmother used to cook. Now we know that traditional ways of eating are much healthier in addition to being more flavorful. In my version of this recipe, for example, I’ve added back the ham hock, which adds a ton of flavor from the natural fats, collagen, and bone marrow. The result is a red sauce that tastes better and is better for you.
A fresh pot of red sauce was a staple in our kitchen. It seems like we used red sauce 4 out of 5 nights a week. It was the blank canvas on which we created our art. You construct an entire menu for the week around one pot of red sauce, which is exactly what I am going to show you how to do this week.
1 ham hock (including bones)
2 cans (28oz each) of organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 can (28oz) water
1 organic red onion
4 large organic carrots
6 cloves of garlic
1 can of organic tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp ground black pepper
Take the ham hock out of the package and set in the crock-pot.* Finely chop the red onion, carrots and garlic and add to the crock pot with the ham hock.**
Combine the rest of the ingredients in the crock-pot. It’s ok if the tomato paste is in one clump because once the sauce heats up it will mix in with the other ingredients. Put the lid on the crock pot, turn it on LOW and let cook for 6-8 hours and occasionally stir.
*If you do not have a crock pot you may put in a large sauce pan. Although I highly recommend investing in a slow cooker because it is convenient and it offers me piece of mind knowing my stove is not on all day.
**I prefer to use ham hock, but other meat on the bone will work well too. I use the hock because it is the extreme shank end of the leg bone and the associated skin, fat, tendons, and muscle. This is where most of the flavor in the sauce comes from. The more fat and connective tissue the more flavor you will have. Chicken, for example, wouldn’t have the same amount of flavor because it is low in fat.
From my kitchen to yours with love,