The last supper
My family and I were sitting in Epcot’s Norway restaurant in Disney World, digesting our dinners, sharing desserts and sipping aquavit (with “vit” rhyming with “sit” rather than “seat”), when my son-in-law Bruce asked what food we would choose if we could choose only one.This led to a lively argument on the definition of terms: Was this what we’d have to eat for months or a lifetime on a desert island, or was it a one-shot deal? We wrestled it down to death. If we were to be executed at dawn, what would we want our last meal to be?That was easier to get our teeth into. I think I said prime rib, picturing the outside slices, brown on one side and rare on the other and plenty of crisp fat on the top and the meat marbled throughout, and I think Bruce said ice cream, but whatever the others suggested were lost in memory when my granddaughter Riley stated firmly that what she’d want for her final meal was “Su’s spaghetti sauce.” Whoa!Every time I go back East to visit my mother, my niece Kathy always asks me to make spaghetti for her family of six when they drive up from southern New Jersey for an evening. For this event I make eight or 10 quarts of sauce so there’s plenty to go around – 10 at the table plus an extra pint or two for my mother’s Jamaican caretaker to keep in the freezer.So I was not entirely unaware that my spaghetti sauce had its fans – I like it myself and keep it on hand on a regular basis – but when Riley chose it for her last supper I felt like some kind of a fraud, because this spaghetti sauce is too easy to make to be elevated to such a high status as Final Meal.I hasten to say that I have never been secretive about its ingredients and take credit for it only for discovering it on my own one evening when I had a hankering for homemade spaghetti sauce but was disinclined to chop any onions, press any garlic or otherwise make extra work for myself.I have to drag this story out because the recipe itself only takes a couple of lines of type. This is 1/3 of the recipe I make for my niece’s family:Sauté a pound of hamburger (80 percent lean works best, though you’ll probably be horrified and will go for 90 percent, which will stick to the pan), mashing it up with a fork as it browns. You can use Italian sausage for half or all of the meat, according to your taste, or you can leave the meat out entirely if you’re vegetarian.In a blender, chop four 14.5-ounce cans of stewed Del Monte Italian recipe tomatoes until it is no longer chunky. Use three cans for meatier sauce and five for less meaty. Pour the sauce over the meat, cook it down over low heat to your desired thickness (about half an hour for this amount) and voilà – there’s your spaghetti sauce. Add a little olive oil, maybe a pinch of sugar, but if you stray further you’re adding work, and simplicity is what you’re aiming for.I serve it over spaghettini, which cooks up better at this altitude than the thicker spaghetti and works well with the sauce, which is lighter than your average marinara. Add parmesan cheese, serve with garlic bread and a salad and you have a meal, which, if not actually to die for, is pretty damned good.Su Lum is a longtime local who freezes the leftovers, if there are any. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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