As I ventured dining outside my home as a young child, at restaurants and friends homes, I could not understand why ‘spaghetti sauce’ tasted so different from the sauce I dined on at home. Discover the difference in this little family jewel recipe from my Family & Friends cookbook – Gray’s Pasta Sauce.
When you are young you begin your journey with food. We all remember the tastes and smells of our home and become acquainted with new ones. I was very vexed, at about 5 years of age, as to why spaghetti sauce sampled outside my home was well, an herby, salty, sweet mess – yuk, I thought. (Dining and cooking were very important in my family) I now know, it was jarred spaghetti sauce–back then there were no gourmet varieties available on the shelf.
Now to the family sauce. This is a very distinctive sauce from the Northern Italy region, in the Po River Valley. The smokey pork adds a complex flavor element to a very simple sauce. The tender bits of meat do not over power. Like most long-cooked sauces, it is even better the next day. Day one, you get to enjoy the savory smell from the ham shanks.
Originally I made the sauce using smoked ham hocks, but since the quality of this product varies, I began using smoked ham shanks from a local meat market. Shanks are from the forelegs and ham hocks from the rear legs. If both are cured and smoked the same, they will perform the same. The shanks are often larger and offer more meat. This ingredient really is the key to the recipe, venture to a local butcher shop.
The pasta pictured is galletti, which literally translates “cocks’s combs.” It is a semicircular tubular pasta with ruffled edges, quite fetching. But any tube pasta or spaghetti is great with this sauce. One year I had a glut of tomatoes and used mostly my fresh tomatoes and supplemented with the canned San Marzano-fabulous!
Enjoy this family jewel and savor the rest from my first cookbook in our shop.