Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fallon's Tomato Sauce (AKA: Wagon Wheel Pasta)

Wagon Wheel Pasta with Fallon's Special Sauce, August 2011.
I've been trying to create written versions of my family's recipes for a while now, but I just started tapping into the recipes files from my husband's side of the family.  My goal is to create a family history for my children through recipes and stories about food so it only makes sense to get both sides of the story-- especially since they're very different stories.

My brother-in-law Damian has been telling me about his father's famous tomato sauce for several years now, but his father Fallon never wrote down the recipe.  Fallon passed away before I started dating my husband, so unfortunately I never had a chance to meet him.  When I asked my husband about Fallon's Famous Sauce, he said his father's tomato sauce was pretty basic.  He remembered eating it and enjoying it, but he didn't remember much about the recipe itself.  I got a very different story from my brother-in-law, who gave me a long rundown of everything we needed to do (and buy) to make his father's tomato sauce.

The process of making Fallon's Famous Sauce began with a trip to Mario's Italian Deli, where we purchased the supplies for the sauce.  We spent quite a while mulling over the various cans of San Marzano tomatoes.  Damian thought the yellow can of Cento brand whole peeled San Marzanos looked familiar so we went with it (although we eventually decided that it didn't matter which brand we got as long as they were San Marzanos.)

Next stop-- the pasta aisle.  Damian went straight for the wagon wheel pasta, which was an unexpected twist.  Then I realized that this was a meal that Fallon prepared for his five children so the choice wasn't really all that surprising.  We wandered around the store for a while before we figured out that we only needed those two items to make the highly anticipated special sauce.  Everything else on the supply list was already at home in my kitchen-- garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, parmesan cheese, sugar, salt, and a carrot. After buying a few pounds of classic Italian deli meats and cheeses, including the fontina that my daughters adore, we headed home.

Damian gets a whiff of the sauce, August 2011.
We'd gotten a late start so we postponed cooking for another day.  That day turned out to be my mother-in-law's birthday.  Damian came to help us get an early start for our birthday brunch and the preparations turned out to be the best part-- at least for me.  Near the end of the cooking time, when everyone in the family had assembled for our midday dinner, we all hung out in the kitchen awaiting the final plating of the sauce.  We munched on salami from Mario's while we waited and I witnessed a wonderful sight.  I'd just given my youngest daughter a bite of salami when my husband said, "Wait a minute.  You're not doing it right!"  I felt irritation rising, but I held my tongue and I was glad I did.  As I turned around, I saw my husband waving a small piece of salami in front of my daughter's nose while telling her, "Say bark-bark".  She looked confused, but said, "bark-bark" in a tiny voice and my husband dropped the salami directly into her mouth.  They both beamed with happiness and I suspect I did too.  In that moment I remembered my husband telling me that his father always fed his children bologna that way.  My husband says that he was in elementary school before he realized that the name for bologna wasn't actually "bark-bark".  Gotta love it.

When we all finally sat down to the table, we discussed memories of Fallon's sauce and other family food favorites.  The children were fascinated by the wagon wheel pasta (which they'd never seen before) and ate it until I thought it might come out their eyeballs.  My mother-in-law enjoyed the sauce, but said the wagon wheel pasta "wouldn't have been her first choice".  I must admit that I agreed with her.  Wagon wheel pasta is fun for kids, but not my favorite pasta.  (Sorry, Damian!)  As it turned out, the wagon wheel pasta was not a requirement of Fallon's Special Sauce, but Damian's personal favorite.  I have great tolerance for helping anyone to recreate childhood culinary memories, so I certainly don't begrudge him the choice, but it is interesting to note that other pasta choices are more than acceptable.

My husband agreed that our version of Fallon's Famous Sauce did indeed taste like his father's sauce, but that it was slightly sweeter than the sauce he remembered from his childhood.  For this reason, I decreased the amount of sugar in the recipe printed below.

Fallon's Famous Sauce
as remembered by Damian Evans

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 28-ounce cans of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, washed and cut into several large chunks (peeling the carrot is unnecessary unless the carrot is very old and thick-skinned or very dirty)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 bag of wagon wheel pasta or the pasta of your choice

Frying garlic for Fallon's Special Sauce, August 2011.
Instructions:

  • Puree two cans of tomatoes in a food mill.  (Mine was temporarily misplaced so we used a food processor instead, but Damian and I agreed that the food mill would have been a better choice.)
  • Slice two cloves of garlic into thin slices.
  • Place 1/4 cup of olive oil into a 12 inch high-sided skillet and heat on a medium flame.  
  • Add sliced garlic into pan and fry garlic until it becomes golden brown.  Flip each slice of garlic to brown the other side.  Remove each clove from the pan after it had browned on both sides.
  • Add tomatoes to hot oil, being very careful to avoid splattering.  
  • Stir and add chunks of carrot.
  • Simmer mixture on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. 
  • After 30 minutes, add salt, oregano, and sugar and continue to cook, stirring every once in a while, for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Near the end of the cooking time, remove chunks of carrot and add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.
  • Cook pasta of your choice according to package directions.  When pasta is cooked, drain and serve immediately with sauce.
  • In the Evans household, this sauce was served over wagon wheel pasta and topped with a generous amount of parmesan cheese.