I grew up across the street from a real Mama Leone—an amazing Irish woman who had an Italian husband and a live-in Italian mother-in-law who taught her to cook. This awesome recipe was a neighbourhood favourite. It has been equally popular with everyone who has ever tasted it. It is an all-purpose Italian sauce. I usually make it for spaghetti and have added optional instructions for that purpose. Without the meat, it is vegan friendly. It's also a good pizza sauce base. You can add other herbs, spices and vegetables if you like, but we have always kept it simple. That's why once it was a lifesaver for a friend who is allergic to garlic. The sauce freezes extremely well.
- 16 ounces tomato sauce (puree)
- 16 ounces tomato paste (concentrate)
- 80 ounces water (that's five cans of water from the tomato cans you've used)
- 3 teaspoons salt (the original recipe called for six, but that is way too salty these days)
- 1⁄4 cup white sugar
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon (some friends who make this insist they need to use more cinnamon. I have a very good quality cinnamo)
- 2 dried hot red chiles (you can substitute chilli flakes about 1/4 teaspoon)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 lbs lean hamburger (optional)
- 2 medium onions, chopped (optional)
- Put all ingredients (except the meat and onions) in a large pot.
- Stir well and bring to a boil. Continue to stir occasionally until it boils, so the cinnamon is incorporated.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for three to four hours. Continue to stir occasionally. You can speed up this step, if you leave it on a boil, but I think the flavour improves if it is not rushed.
- The sauce needs to cook until it bloops—namely until the sauce splashes out of the pot and makes a bit of a mess on the stove top (or wall in my case).
- Remove and discard the chillies and bay leaves.
- What to do next if you intend to serve this sauce over pasta. Saute the beef until it loses most of its pink colouring, then add the onions and saute until tender.
- Drain off any fat.
- Add meat mixture to cooked sauce and stir well.
- Heat the mixture well, then ladle over pasta.