Vodka Sauce

Entire bunch of flat-leaf Italian Parsley added to the sauce. You can
leavethe sauce chunky so you see all the mushrooms but
somehow pureeing it makes it taste better.

Adding Fresh Basil on top of the Flat-Leaf Parsley

Immersion blender that I've had since I was 14.

My sweet Katherine pureeing the sauce for me. (So much easier with
an immersion blender than transferring batches of hot sauce to a
blender or food processor. This is the giant pot that makes the batch
of sauce for 64-80 people. I should have taken a picture of the 8-quart
pot used for this recipe)

I know everyone has been literally waiting years for this recipe. I make it in such enormous quantities in a batch that serves 64-80 people that it was hard for me to break it down to a recipe for a home kitchen. Then Monica Giles kindly sent me the Basic Meat Sauce for Spaghetti recipe that I wrote when I was stationed with them in Ft. Rucker. I recently bought only a pound a half of ground beef and decided it was time to update my old recipe to the way I've been making it for the past 10 years.

This sauce is one of the best things I make. Some of the people I give it to don't even put it on pasta; they just eat the entire sauce directly out of the container. Katy Feldsot Canfield had me serve this as an amuse bouche at her wedding with three pieces of homemade gnocchi.

Vodka neutralizes the acid in tomatoes. So that certainly improves the taste. Carrots also neutralize the acid in tomatoes. (I learned about the carrots in college when I went to Julie Yeager's apartment for dinner and she was putting carrots and zucchini in her spaghetti sauce. I've done that ever since then!) I know it may seem like overkill to have wine and vodka in the same sauce but having both really improves the flavor.

Traditional Vodka Sauce is made with heavy cream. This sauce doesn't have any cream or milk in it, but you are welcome to add some if you prefer it that way.

TIP: Anything made with tomato sauce is better the next day whether it be chili or tomato sauce. To mimic this "next-day" flavor, make the sauce in the morning. Turn it off completely and let it cool for at least 2-3 hours. Reheat sauce before serving.

My Basic Vodka Meat Sauce

Even this small make enough for 16-20 people. So you can make enough for dinner for a family or 4 or 5 and then put the rest in containers to freeze for quick dinners later. Once the sauce is frozen it thaws in the same amount of time it takes to boil water for the pasta to cook. So it truly is a quick dinner. This sauce can also be used in Lasagna or other dishes that call for red meat sauce.

I basically flavor the ground beef the same way you would if you are making Italian Sausage only no need to stuff it into casings. You can use a combination of ground pork, ground veal and ground beef if you'd like. It is wonderful that way. But I most frequently just make it with lean ground beef.

for the meat that will be added to the sauce:
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper
(you will add and the following spices three times in stages to the meat)
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried Basil
Dried Oregano
Dried Fennel seeds or Anise Seeds

for the sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced (makes about 1 cup)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes or
a combination of the three. (DO NOT USE TOMATO SAUCE!)
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms, sliced or chopped
2 cups red wine
1 cup vodka
1 bunch fresh flat-leave Italian Parsley, LEAVES only, no stems
handful of fresh basil leaves (no stems)

Heat the largest skillet you have over medium high heat. Season one side of your beef generously with kosher salt and the above spices. Place the seasoned side down in the hot pan and start seasoning the other side of the beef. Break up the beef with a spatula or spoon as it is cooking and continue to sprinkle with kosher salt, red pepper flakes and the other seasoning. Put more salt that you would imagine it needs. (Kosher salt has no additives and is not as salty as table salt, therefore you need more of it. It should be used liberally and has a superior flavor to other salt especially with meat!) Cook all the way through and set aside.

Dice onion and mince garlic. In an 8-quart sauce pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onions first and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring when necessary. Then add garlic. Add more olive oil if necessary. DO NOT LET GARLIC BURN OR ENTIRE SAUCE WILL BE BITTER. Cook onion until soft and garlic until brown. (Remember that acid stops the caramelization process so be sure to get your onions all the way cooked before you add any wine or tomatoes.) Add more olive oil or water if onions are browning too quickly.

When onions and garlic are golden and your whole house smells fabulous then pour in the three cans of tomatoes as well as all the remaining ingredients. Add cooked and seasoning meat to the sauce as well.

Cook sauce for a minimum of one hour, but ideally for two or three hours. Tomato based sauces (like chili, etc.) always taste better the next day. To mimic this "next day" chemical change in the sauce, cook for 2 hours to begin with. Then turn off heat and let sauce cool on the stovetop to room temperature. Then reheat and cook for another hour or two. Let sauce cool down before refrigerating or freezing.

Maili's Notes: When freezing sauce let the sauce cool in the pan for at least an hour. Then ladle into 1-quart containers. Do not put lids on containers until sauce is room temperature. Put lids on and freeze. Do not put sauce in refrigerator to cool. Just let it cool on your countertop.

to thaw frozen sauce: Place frozen block of sauce in a saucepan with 1/3 cup of water. Place lid on saucepan and cook over medium high heat. After five minutes or so break up the outside of the frozen block with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until broken apart and thawed. Sauce usually is finished before pasta is cooked.


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