The Godfather's Spaghetti Sauce
"Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."
I'm sure everyone knows where that line comes from. (As if the entry title didn't give it away.)
I picked up the DVD of The Godfather a few months back, to replace my 2-cassette VHS edition. Of course I've been a big fan of the novel, having picked it up when I was doing my first degree at UBC.
Now that I'm older, I find myself in admiration of the character who says that line, Peter Clemenza. Mario Puzo describes him as "a jolly dancer," and as played by Richard Castellano, you can see he's got a lot of joie de vivre. He enjoys wine straight from the pitcher, he likes to kid around with superiors and subordinates alike--and make no mistake, he's a tough one. ("Leave the gun. Take the cannolli.")
But note his attitude in the kitchen, before James Caan interrupts him. It's the post-war 1940s, as portrayed in the women's lib 1970s, and this fella's right at home over a stove. This is the attitude of a man who's comfortable in his own skin. Men could do worse than emulate this.
About the recipe, now. The scene with Clemenza appears in the novel, but not the actual recipe. According to the DVD commentary, the recipe came from Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the film. He says he put the recipe in the script because, if the film flopped, at least whoever saw it would learn how to make spaghetti sauce. In other words, this is meant to be an Important Scene.
There are some clues as to proportions that aren't mentioned. Clemenza is talking to Mikey just as he's emptying two cans of tomatoes into the sauce. That tells us the proportions he's using. When he adds the sausages and meatballs, you realize from their color that they've already been cooked. He splashes in wine straight from the jug, and it's a deep red wine. The sugar is dumped in from a measuring cup, and it looks to be about a quarter-cup.
So. Here's how the recipe looks, to serve 8 to 10 people:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large (28-ounce) cans tomatoes (whole, crushed or chopped)
1 10-ounce or 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
3 to 4 Italian sausages, grilled and sliced
1 lb. cooked meatballs (use your favorite recipe)
Dry red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot.
2. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes. Do not let the garlic burn.
3. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring continuously so that a relatively smooth consistence is reached.
4. Add sausages and meatballs. Stir until the meat is coated.
5. Add a splash of red wine, then the sugar according to taste.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for a minimum of 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
7. Serve by ladling over cooked pasta.
Tip: If you have normally have problems with gas after eating a sauce like this, you can reduce them by skimming the surface of acid (reddish-orange pools of foam will form on the surface).
Tip 2: If you're using canned whole tomatoes, draining them and then crushing them by hand will result in a chunky sauce. Canned crushed tomatoes will create a slightly thinner sauce, while canned chopped tomatoes will result in a thicker sauce.