Chocolates are Ok, but you went out and bought them. Nothing says LUV better that a meal that
A Tastes fantastic
B Looks like you worked for hours and hours just to please her.
The meal is Italian Sunday Gravy over pasta. Italian Gravy is spaghetti saauce, often with everything but the kitchen sink added. I'm Polish but my Babci (Polish for grandma) had a friend, Mrs Moramarco, who owned the grocery in Long Island City where I was born.
Although it might seem complicated to the uninitiated (and you'll keep her that way) it's not and quite easy once you know the tricks.
Here's pretty much all you need:
Step 1: Assemble Your Weapons
Get all the tools together in one spot. You will need your cutting board, your sharp knife, some bowls to hold the processed food. One very large pot with heat proof handlesAlso helpfull is some heavy duty Aluminum foil
Also assemble your ingredients: Sausage (sweet and hot), ground beef and pork (equal amounts) about a pound af each and don't buy the more expensive low-fat or the meat balls will be dry.
Onion, anywhere from 7 to 12 cloves of garlic (YMMV), 2 slices plain white bread, one large egg,
Step 2: Food Prep and Alchemy
Hmm, I forgot my ground meat and sausages were frozen. What's a wizard to do?
You take your frozen meat, place it in a zip-lock and put it in a sink. Stopper said sink and adjust the Hot and Cold water flow to medium and place in sink adjust flow so that it runs over meat, and doesn't overflow sink. This is known as the Alton Brown method. Defrosting takes about 30 to 45 minutes
Step 3: Preparation
We're going to need chopped onion for the liquidicious part of the gravy. This is how we are going to finely chop them:
A: Cut off stem end (but not root end)
B Stand onion on flat top
C. Cut onion in half length wise
D. separate and you can easily peel of the skin
After peeling, lay onion down on its cut side as shown and insert tip of knife close to root.
lay knife down towards stem end sort of like a paper cutter. Rinse and repeat across onion half until you have an onion with several parallel cuts. After completing cuts, Slice from stem end and voila, diced onion
Now the garlic for the gravy and meat balls. You will need two cloves for the meat ballsand you want it very finely chopped indeed. Smash with either the plastic mastic spreader or a wide knife (don't cut yourself, remember I'm not responsible if you act dumb, that's why I use that plastic thingie). Taking your VSK (very sharp knife, carefully) put the point down on cutting board. Using motions similar to when you were chopping the onions, go up and down with the handle until the garlic is chopped finely. THEN (big secret) sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on the chopped garlic and using something square and dull, rub the salt a garlic into a paste.
Step 4: Meat Balls of Something (couldn't Think of Something That Would Be at Least PG-13)
By this time all your meats are belong to us. They should be nice and thawed and we'll start with the meat balls.
Place your beef and pork into a mixing bowl and tear the white bread into very small pieces and put the pieces into another small bowl or even a large mug. Splash a little plain old mild over the bred sufficient to dampen the bread. Too much won't make a difference so you dont have to be careful here. Put bread aside to soak. To the meat add the garlic paste, some onion powder (to taste), kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a beaten large egg and (SECRET INGREDIENT)
about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. You don't have to use this. It's my one vice, I love it and would probably main line it if I could.
You can buy a good pre-grated brand usually found in the deli department (DO NOT BUY TH ONE IN PLASTIC WITH THE GREEN TOP AND LABEL I don't even think that's cheese, no matter what they say. However if you can swing a small chunk of the real stuff, it's well worth it, especially when you serve the pasta with it freshly grated at the table. Shows how sophisticated you are.
Knead mix together with your hands (you did wash them when you removed your familiar from the sink) Don't mix too much, you don't want a paste. Take a teaspoonful at a time a form ~ 1 inch balls.
Step 5: Getting It All Together
Get a big pot, probably your biggest pot. Make sure the handles are heat proof (NB because they are heat proof, it doesn't mean they won't get hot. They will. Very hot. Burny, burny. Use pot holders etc.)
Lay dow a thin layer of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) You don't need much, just to coat the bottom. If your using tha pancetta, add to pot and and over medium heat, brown very slowly. When brown remove.
Add your sausage, over medium to medium high heat, BROWN (that does not mean burn, cook through or anything but just brown) all you want is for that nice tasty brown coat on the outside of the sausage. Remove
Raise the heat a touch. Add your meat balls. You might have to brown them in batches, do not crowd. Putting too much beef/pork mix in the pan and the meat balls will boil in their juices and not brown.
Do Not Burn. This is why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction.
What you're doing is searing. Remove
To the empty pot add a splash of red wine vinegar to deglaze. Open five 28 oz cans plum tomatoes and one large can of tomato paste.
Add your onions and the rest of the garlic (To taste, I use 10 cloves. YMMV)
Cook over medium heat, adding a little EVOO if needed. When the onions are soft and transparent, add the tomato paste to onions and mix it in. Still on medium or a tiny bit higher, let the paste soften and toast a little.This makes a lot of difference, makes it taste a little like you used roasted tomato.
When the mix homogeneous, add the plum tomatoes. My favorite way and the easiest is to take a few out os the can in your fist, cover tightly with your other hand and squeeze like you just ripped someones heart out. Told you it was coming. Make sure the first few times you try this, cover your fist tightly with the other hand or the blood will squirt you in the eye.
Add the meats back to pot, adjust seasoning, add add some red pepper flakes (again, and again to taste), put a lid on it and put in oven at 250 F
BIG SECRET: Turn oven on to 250 F and just throw the pot inside. Let it cook at least 3 hours or as long as you want. Because the heat is coming from all around the pot, and not just the bottom, it will not burn the sauce. You don't have to watch it too much, if at all. I'm sitting at the 'puter and watching the SyFy channel (yeah I know, my bad. But it was "Transmorphers" ) This works because water boils at 212 (duh) and it gets just hot enough to keep it at a very low simmer, very safely. Actually this is how they cooked in "the old country" if there was a fire place, they just layed it on the hearth. If a wood burning stove, they started it the night before and as the coals burned low they cooked. Kept warm and cooked at the same time AND saved fuel. At least that's what Babci and mrs Moramarco told me. And That's the Rest f the Story.
Any way, I started the gravy at 9:00 PM and it was in the oven by 10. It took way longer to write this 'able.
This is just my second, and the first was kind of lame. I didn't really take it too seriously. This is my entry in the "Valentine Contest". I hope you like, vote early and often, and thanks for your support.
Look up Maillaiard Reaction on Wikipedia.