When it comes to tomato sauce, words like Ragu, Prego and Bertolli simply don‚??t exist for some local cooks.
Like their mothers and grandmothers before them, they absolutely must make their own sauce.
For some, no other sauce compares.
‚??I don‚??t like anybody else‚??s,‚?Ě Dorothy Mangan of Hanover Township confessed. ‚??I rarely order anything with sauce when I go out.‚?Ě
Leandra Hosey of West Wyoming, who has been using her grandmother‚??s recipe for years, takes that one step further: She won‚??t even try anyone else‚??s sauce.
‚??I don‚??t eat sauce out,‚?Ě Hosey said. ‚??I don‚??t like it. My family doesn‚??t eat sauce out ‚??
Nancy Baiera of Pittston Township is a bit more experimental.
‚??I am particular about sauce,‚?Ě she said, though she doesn‚??t think hers is the best.
Not that she or anyone else doubts her recipe, but Baiera, whose sauce adorns the pasta at the Night at the Races sponsored by St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston, just thinks there‚??s a lot of good sauce out there.
And Andrea Josefowicz of Nanticoke, who learned to make sauce and meatballs working at the St. Francis of Assisi spaghetti dinners for years, will sometimes eat sauce elsewhere but mostly has her own at home.
Mangan, who will for the second year make her special recipe for the Wyoming Valley Flames Girls Softball pasta dinner on Sunday, usually uses fresh tomatoes from the garden, but when those aren‚??t available, she‚??ll use crushed tomatoes from the can.
She includes onions and saut√©s them in olive oil until they are clear, then she throws in about 4 pounds of crushed tomatoes, 18 ounces of tomato paste, about 28 ounces of water and salt and pepper to taste.
‚??I don‚??t put very much salt in because I don‚??t like salt,‚?Ě Mangan said.
She uses a little less than a quarter cup of sugar and a basil leaf.
‚??We grow the basil in the yard, so I use the dry (basil) all winter,‚?Ě she said.
She also cooks meatballs in the sauce, unless she is in a hurry, then she will bake them first.
She uses three slices of white bread, wet, for each pound of beef for the meatballs, which also include onions, parsley, salt, pepper and seasoned bread crumbs.
‚??Sometimes I‚??ll throw garlic in, but not too many people like the garlic,‚?Ě Mangan said of her family.
She brings the sauce to a boil then simmers it for about two hours with the meatballs.
‚??You have to keep stirring it so it doesn‚??t stick to the bottom.‚?Ě
Hosey, meanwhile, learned to make her homemade sauce from her grandmother.
‚??There‚??s really no secret, just tender loving care,‚?Ě she said. ‚??It‚??s my grandmother‚??s recipe I‚??ve been using for years.‚?Ě
Ever since Hosey was a little girl, she had been watching her ‚??nona‚?Ě make sauce. Hosey recalled her grandmother was one of those typical Italian grandmothers who would have their granddaughters watch them make the sauce.
‚??I grow the tomatoes in the garden over the summer, then I can them from there,‚?Ě Hosey said. ‚??I simplified it through the years.
While her grandmother would cook the sauce over the stove, frequently stirring the mixture, Hosey uses a Nesco cooker to slow-cook the meat and sauce.
‚??As far as the tomatoes, I just put those in a blender,‚?Ě she said. ‚??I use country-style spare ribs; I use London broil; I use a whole onion and cloves in it. Then I put some butter in the bottom of the pot and I let that brown.‚?Ě
Because she makes large quantities of sauce, she uses a 2-pound piece of London broil cut into 2-inch pieces; a 3-to-4-pound package of spare ribs, a medium onion and a stick of butter.
After those brown, she starts to add about 5 quarts of tomatoes, 10 to 12 6-ounce cans of tomato paste and a can of water for each can of tomato paste.
Hosey‚??s sauce also has meatballs.
‚??I just let that simmer away, and I start mixing the meatballs,‚?Ě she said.
To 10 to 12 pounds of ground beef, she adds fresh garlic, bread crumbs, Asiago cheese, eggs, milk, salt and pepper and sometimes a little Worcestershire sauce. All amounts are estimated.
The mixture makes about 140 meatballs, 3 to 4 inches in circumference. She drops them in the sauce raw because if you fry them first, they will lose flavor, she said.
‚??I put the lid on it, cook it for three to four hours, Hosey said.
She then adds two 1.25-ounce packets of Spatini Italian sauce seasoning and simmers the sauce for another four or five hours.‚?Ě
At the end, she removes the onion, which was just in the sauce for flavor.
‚??It‚??s 98 percent close to my grandmother‚??s,‚?Ě she said.
Fresh tomatoes also are key for Baiera, who purees and crushes them in her blender, then adds garlic powder and onion powder.
She buys different brands of tomatoes in case some are bitter.
For the meat, she uses boneless spare ribs or chuck steak.
‚??If I‚??m doing meatballs, the last half hour of the sauce I toss them in,‚?Ě Baiera said.
‚??I like to make it a little chunkier in the summertime. I get the fresh tomatoes from the yard.‚?Ě
Better yet if you‚??re fortunate enough to have someone can tomatoes in the summer, she said.
For her meatballs, Baiera uses straight ground beef, seasoned bread crumbs, a little oregano and parsley crushed in her hand because it feels like that releases the aroma. She also adds salt, pepper and grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese. She bakes the meatballs before adding them to the sauce.
She used to use onions instead of onion powder, but the grandchildren don‚??t like to see onion pieces in their meatballs.
Finally, Josefowicz, who is of Polish and Slovak descent, learned to make her tomato sauce working at the St. Francis spaghetti dinners for about 40 years with a group of women with Italian backgrounds. This will be her first year working at the St. Faustina spaghetti dinner. She is making the sauce.
‚??We make it basically from scratch,‚?Ě Josefowicz said of her earlier days of making sauce and meatballs. ‚??We don‚??t use fatback anymore because of the cost and for health reasons.‚?Ě
But they stirred the sauce for a few hours after adding fried sausage and beef. In later years, they used crushed tomatoes from cans rather than spending hours crushing them by hand.
‚??The ladies used to come in and squish the tomatoes,‚?Ě she said.
Garlic, basil, parsley, onions and Pecorino Romano cheese were part of the sauce.
‚??It used to take us days before to make it,‚?Ě Josefowicz said.
She uses celery, onion, garlic, Italian bread dried in the oven and half pork, half beef in her meatballs, which are then baked in the oven.
She makes sauce at home for her family, but Josefowicz would not reveal specifics.
‚??The recipe is a guarded secret,‚?Ě she said.
4 pounds or 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
1 18-ounce can of tomato paste
28 ounces water
1 handful of basil
2 onions, chopped
Just under 1/4 cup sugar
1 pound ground beef
3 slices white bread
Seasoned bread crumbs
Chop and saute one of the onions in olive oil until clear then add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and water.
Salt and pepper to taste, add sugar, basil leaf.
For meatballs, mix ground beef, onions, parsley, salt, pepper, three slices wet white bread, a bit of seasoned bread crumbs and garlic, if desired.
Add meatballs to sauce, bring to a boil then simmer for two hours, stirring frequently to prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of pot.