Several years ago I wrote the tale of the Curious Case of the Canosa Family Sauce. The short story recounted the tale of the passing of the great Michael “Pop” Canosa, my Grandfather and patriarch of my family, and the enormous void left in his wake. A part of that void was the question of who was going to make the red sauce filled with various creatures of the sea for the Christmas Eve dinner that we have, as a family, shared since the dawn of time. After much discussion it was settled. I made the sauce.
This was no small thing.
It has been several years since the first time I made the sauce on Christmas Eve and I am still making the sauce.
This is no small ordeal either.
So now, after all this time, I have decided to share with the world (or the three people that actually read this blog) the recipe for the sauce. It isn’t an incredibly tricky sauce to make, but there is an order that things go in which creates a depth of flavor which is important and, most of all, delicious.
The first thing you will need to do for The Sauce is to get your ingredients.
- 5 Cans of San Marzano Tomatoes
- 2 Carrots
- 2 Stalks of Celery
- 2 Large Sweet Onions
- ¼ Pound Guanciale (If you can’t get Guanciale then thick cut bacon or Pancetta will do but really try to get the Guanciale)
- 1 Bell Pepper
- ¼ pound of freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano (freshly grated as in make sure to watch them grate it. If they do not offer this service then grate yourself)
- 6 Parmesan Rinds (This is the rind from the Cheese. Many stores sell them in 6 packs)
- 2 Tablespoons of fresh made Ricotta Cheese (I know you can’t just buy 2 tablespoons but that is all you will need)
- 1 Head of garlic
- Red Wine (I use Chianti and don’t cheap out because it is cooking wine. Flavor will intensify when you cook so if the wine isn’t tasty your sauce will not be either)
- 2 Pounds of Shrimp
- 2 Pounds of Calamari (I get 1.5 pounds bodies and ½ pound tentacles)
- 1 Octopus
- 2 Shots of Sambuca (will be explained later)
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Olive Oil
- 1 Bunch of Fresh Basil
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Parley
- 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (or more if you like a little more spice)
- 1 Can Tomato Paste
- 1 bay Leaf
This is all you will need to make your sauce. Once you get your ingredients we move on to the next step – Costume.
Laugh though you might, but it is frequently and correctly said that love is the main ingredient for food and with love comes passion and with passion and love comes the willingness to be ridiculous and have fun. For your costume you will need
- 1 Standard Wife Beater T-Shirt
- 1 Pair of Adidas Track Pants
- 1 Pair of White Tube Socks
- 1 Pair of Leather Loafers
- 1 Container of Pomade
Once you are properly attired and your hair is greased back you then need to go into character. You know the character. We are talking real Vinnie Boom Batz stuff here. If you don’t know what a real Brooklyn Guinnie sounds like then you have no business making this sauce. We here at lulzsalad have nothing against people who have no connection to this stereotype, but the sauce simply will not come out right if you don’t. You can try anyway. It will be plenty good. But there will be something missing.
After you have your ingredients and you have your costume on and have taken on your new persona it is time for the music. You will need
- Louis Prima Angelina
- The Rat Pack Christmas
- The Essential Dean Martin
Play these three albums on shuffle and repeat until the sauce is finished. This step is essential and cannot be skipped.
After this you will need to make you Mise en Place. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is simply breaking down all your ingredients so that they are ready to use and organizing them in a way that will make sense when you need them.
Worth The Effort
Once you have everything broken down then it is time to begin. As a side note, before breaking down the octopus it is required in the Refusal To Act Like A Grownup Act of 1977 Section 8 Article iii Cephalopods that you hold the octopus up and frighten any small children in the vicinity with it. If there are no small children you must take a photo of the octopus and make sure to show it to small children before they eat the sauce.
Once you have complied with this law you will take a large Dutch oven and drizzle in olive oil and toss in the guanciale
Allow this to cook on low heat until the fat renders out of the guanciale entirely (approx. 20 minutes). Remove the meat and discard. Place vegetables, a heaping pinch of kosher salt, a good amount of black pepper and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes into the rendered fat and cook until translucent
Once the Vegetables are cooked down you will need 2 cups of wine. Drink one cup and deglaze the pot with the other. Raise the heat from medium low to medium and cook until the liquid is almost gone so it goes from this
At this point we have the base of the sauce. Now it is time to add the tomatoes. Make sure to slice and seed your tomatoes. You don’t want the seeds in the sauce as they have a bitter taste.
Using a fork or potato masher crush the tomatoes until they are, well, sauce consistency and then place in the herbs.
and the grated Parmesan- Reggiano
And the Parmesan rinds
And stir. At this point turn your heat up to high and wait for the sauce to boil. Once the sauce boils lower the heat back down to medium and cook for 2 hours covered with the cover slightly shifted to the side to allow some steam to escape. After the two hours remove the parmesan rinds and bay leaf and stir and your sauce is done.
I use an immersion Blender to Smooth it out
Most chefs will tell you, at this point, to add a bit of butter to the sauce to give it body and a nice sheen, but with this sauce, rather than use butter, I use 2 Tablespoons of fresh made ricotta cheese.
One thing that is important is that the music, during the two hours when you are cooking down the sauce, can never stop, you can never leave character and you have to continually drink red wine (spilling it on the wife beater is not necessary but it is recommended.
Back when my grandfather was alive and he made the sauce on Christmas Eve I would be his helper. Being the helper for my grandfather usually consisted in me doing most of the work with him continually telling me I am doing it wrong alternated by him telling my I am doing a good job. The confusion really added a lot to the sauce. When we were finished my grandfather and I would have a small shot of Sambuca. While my grandfather’s Sambuca drinking days are now over, I decided to keep the tradition alive.
I had one shot of Sambuca and the other went into the sauce. I like to think that somehow the sentimentality of the whole thing added to the flavor of the sauce in such a way that it compensated for the lack of confusion I had.
When the sauce is finished it is time to add the fish. This is very simple. First the octopus goes in for 6 minutes then the calamari goes in for 6 minutes and finally the shrimp goes in for 6 minutes.
Serve over Spaghetti or Linguini.
And so there you have it, the recipe for the Canosa Family Christmas Sauce. Follow these instructions and, most importantly of all, have fun while making it. You are feeding a large group of people, if there isn’t some joy in the food then you are making it wrong.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
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