Paul Caruso’s Famous Red Sauce
When I was young, I hated red sauce – or as many people call it – spaghetti sauce.
Story by Paul Caruso + Photos by Lloyd Wainscott
I didn’t like anything that had lumps in it. Of course, the lumps were meat, onions and such, so I didn’t eat it. Growing up in an Italian family meant pasta twice a week, but for me, it meant buttered noodles twice a week. As I got older, I started to eat it in small amounts but I would strain it first so all that came through was a smooth tomato sauce.
After college and the service I started making my own version of tomato sauce and of course, it had to be smooth.
Everything that went into it was first put through a food processor, except for the tomatoes. I wanted to use the best tomatoes I could find, so I tried everything all the stores and markets had.
I settled on San Marzano canned whole tomatoes from Italy. I did try growing my own tomatoes for a few years but the taste was never as good as the San Marzano. I was happy the way the sauce came out, especially because my children, who were way more fussy than me, loved it.
Over the years, I’ve gotten my day in the kitchen down so I can make it blindfolded. Since I’ve been living on Hilton Head the past 12 years, I’ve been fortunate to serve it to many dinner guests who all ask if I could save them an extra container the next time I make it.
In fact, one guest who will remain nameless gets half of what I make each time.
The meat I use is very important also. For the meatballs, I use a combination of beef, pork and veal, unless of course I know one of my guests doesn’t eat veal. I only use fresh spices (oregano, basil), a good extra virgin olive oil and of course, a good Chianti.
The finished product looks like red gravy, but it’s just a smooth tomato sauce.
One story that I love is about a woman who I dated who told me she hates eating pasta with red sauce. It made her stomach turn. I was bound and determined to change that, so one day I brought over a container that I had made the day before. I put it in a pot on the stove to heat up, and being a curious person, she kept looking into the pot knowing that what she was smelling was nothing like what she detested growing up. I took a spoon with some sauce and asked her to just try it. She grabbed the spoon and started eating it right out of the pan.
I’ve been fortunate to find everything on Hilton Head that I like to use when I make my sauce. It does mean going to a few places but it is definitely worth it.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to make some adjustments to my recipe, especially the meatballs. Nobody has noticed the difference. In fact, pasta for a person who cannot tolerate regular pasta because of the wheat was a problem at first, but not only did I find the best tasting pastas that are gluten free, but nobody cares. They say it tastes as good, if not better. Enjoy!
Paul’s Famous Red Sauce
6 32-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
10 cans tomato paste
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I use chuck for the fat content)
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal (The meat together will make about 30 good size meatballs)
Gluten-free bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Directions  Turn stove burner on low. Sauté garlic in a large pot at a low heat. Mix the three meats in a large bowl, add the eggs and mix well, add the bread crumbs, some grated Parmesan, salt, pepper (you want the mixture when blended to feel like it won’t fall apart when formed but not like it can be used as a baseball). Roll meat into balls (the size depends on what you prefer). In a skillet, brown the meatballs in extra virgin olive oil so they’re browned but not burned on all sides. Set aside.  With a hand food mill, grind all the tomatoes into a large pot (the food mill keeps all the seeds and skins from getting into the pot). Add 2 small cans of tomato paste for each 32 ounce can of tomatoes (this can vary depending on how thick you want your sauce). Add the puréed onion, garlic, salt, pepper, wine (about a cup) and some grated Parmesan. Stir well.  Add the meatballs and sausage. Then sit back and finish the rest of the bottle of wine, because that sauce will cook for 3 or 4 hours. Don’t forget to stir often and have a loaf of Italian bread handy to test your product.