Pasta Sauce Raphael (adapted by Maureen Rigazio from "The New Basics Cookbook," by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins):
4 jars (6 oz each) marinated artichoke hearts in oil
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups chopped Vidalia onions (about 2 whole good sized onions)
4 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
4 pinches of dried red pepper flakes
3 cans (28 oz) crushed plum tomatoes, with their juice
½ c - 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
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½ c chopped fresh parsley
Drain the artichoke hearts, reserving the marinade.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, salt, red pepper flakes, and reserved artichoke marinade.
Saute over medium heat until the onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes
Add the cheese and parsley. Stir gently, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
In the “The Godfather”, there’s a scene where Peter Clemenza says to Michael Corleone “Hey, come over here kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday.” Clemenza then teaches Corleone how to make his signature sauce in bulk.
I thought of this line last night as I peered over the edge of my newly purchased industrial-sized red pot, stirring onions and spices at a low boil. It was my first attempt at my mom’s recipe, which she adapted from The New Basics Cookbook’s “Pasta Sauce Rafale.”
The smell rising up to meet me was like garlic aromatherapy. It reminded me of winter nights at home. When the bitter Massachusetts cold crept into our drafty house, Mom would cook away the chill. Burners blazing, sauce cooking, pasta boiling and chicken cutlets frying.
The windows would steam, the warmth from the stove wrapping around us like a fuzzy blanket and the smell would cling to my clothes and hang in a haze around my hair. In high school, my friend Molly could always tell when my mom, Mo Rigazio, was cooking because she said I smelled like a meatball when she picked me up after dinner.
I like my mom’s sauce best with her chicken cutlets. Cutlets and sauce is what I request for every birthday dinner, or first-night-back-from-college meal. And she always makes it, no matter how busy she is, because she loves to feed the people she loves.
Regardless of what it’s paired with, her sauce always gets rave reviews from friends and family. She’s quick to offer to bring it to a party or send people home with a tupperware of leftovers.
When I told her I’d be making it for friends this weekend, she gently reminded me over the phone, “don’t fuck up my sauce.”
Normally, my mom will cook the sauce in bulk — she ends up bringing it to a party or freezing portions of it for us to reheat at our leisure. Her recipe is three times what the original calls for.
I failed to realize this as I began cooking Sunday afternoon.
I had to go out and buy that industrial-sized red pot because nothing in our kitchen was big enough. Even with ten hungry college kids going back for hearty second and third helpings, we hardly got through half the pot.
My housemates and I are going to put sauce on everything for the rest of the semester, but at least it's delicious. And sharing the Rigazio family favorite of cutlets and sauce with my newspaper family felt like building a little bridge between my two homes.
So, pay attention. You never know, you may have to cook for 20 starving and stressed out college kids one day.