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January 19, 2010


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Fabian W.

That recipe really does make a good sauce.

Stephen Whitty

Wonder how it stacks up against Paulie's Sunday gravy recipe in "The Godfather," though? Further investigation may be required.

Glenn Kenny

Then, of course, there's the slicing-garlic-with-a-razor gag enacted by Scorsese's father in "Goodfellas."

Lately, when I want to whip up a good sauce but can't stay in the kitchen all day, I use a crock pot. It really works. I use one or two cans of whole tomatoes, two cans paste, one can crushed, and one tomato puree. I slice up a bunch of garlic, "Goodfellas" style, dice a yellow onion, and heat the mix in olive oil until it reduces, and what garlic doesn't liquefy gets nice and brown. You throw that mix in the bottom of the crock pot and then add the tomatoes and some cheap red wine. I make the meatballs from a mix of pork and beef and broil them a bit, both sides, and then throw those in; I brown and then boil some sausages, and then throw those in. The crock pot goes on low and cooks for eight hours or so; you can stir and add spices and wine as you go (I always top with a couple of sprigs of fresh oregano). It's practically foolproof.

The Siren

Delicious, and funny too. I wasn't really chiding!

So Glenn, you really tried the famous razor-slicing garlic thing from Goodfellas? I haven't done it for fear my fingers would soon look like the screen cap below.

Question: "Pass a can of whole tomatos" -- what comes after? SPOILERS please?

Fabian W.

Put the tomatos in a blender and pour them in, let it boil, add the salt and vinegar and so on, let it cook again, then put in the meat, let it cook for an hour. After that, make the meatballs and put'em in the sauce again, and let it cook for another hour. Eat. (And be grateful, as Joe Henry would put it.)

Glenn Kenny

@ The Siren: Yes. The instruction is to "pass" the can of tomatoes through a blender, and then it's all what Fabian says.

I was always a little shocked by that instruction. The hardcore sauce makers of my family insisted that the whole point of sauce was slow-cooking it so that the whole tomatoes would literally melt over the course of a day. And I've done it like that. The ingredients of the crock-pot version I list above are my idea of a "cheat."

Incidentally, Catherine S. collected a bunch of her mouthwatering recipes in a book, "Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook," whose front cover illo, hilariously enough, is a still from the late dinner at Tommy's mom's place in "Goodfellas." The out-of-print item is available, not cheaply, from Amazon, here:


Fabian W.

This is perhaps the right time to discuss the painting of Tommy's mother in GOODFELLAS, non? I have this secret theory that it's supposed to be a painting of Marty, but I never found any proof. (And without the beard, it does look like him.)


Fabian, are you talking about the painting of the guy in the boat, with the dogs? Some time after the film came out, one of my brothers found that exact image, but as a photograph, in an old issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. If I can think of a way to search for that on-line, and can then find it, I'll provide a link.


Well, I can't find the photo. But a website called "goodfellaspainting.com" shows that I'm not insane:

"The painting was originally painted by the mother of Nicholas Pileggi and is based upon a 1978 edition of National Geographic. Pileggi wrote the book "Wise Guy" which the movie is based upon."


Why the original picture is so hard to find on-line, I couldn't tell you.

Fabian W.

Bill, yeah, the picture with the boat.
De Niro chuckles "Looks like someone we know" and Pesci says "With the beard...shit, it's him!". And if you mind-erase that beard, it does look a bit like him. Or perhaps it's just the eyebrows and the beard, I don't know.

Fabian W.

Bill, sorry, didn't read your second post. But that still doesn't explain just who he's supposed to look like. It remains a mystery.


Fabian, in the film they're referring to the fact that the guy in the painting looks like Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), the almost-a-corpse they have locked in the trunk of their car at that very moment.

Fabian W.

Really? Get out! (Elaine-shove)
I considered that, but for me, they just didn't look that alike. But now that you mention it, yeah, that makes sense. I still like my theory, though.


Yeah, look at Pesci and, particularly, Liotta's reaction when De Niro brings it up. Pesci laughs, and says something like "Shit, you're right! Without the beard!" but Liotta looks at De Niro as if to say, "Is that really necessary?" Then, if memory serves, the camera tilts up and goes towards the window, focusing on the trunk of the car.


There is a simple beauty to the b&w image of Mama Scorsese's recipe.

In reading The Auteurs article, couldn't help but think of Haig Manoogian, Scorsese's professor @ NYU. His mentor and friend.

One last thing, while not my recommended form of viewing, "American Boy" and "Italianamerican" are available on YouTube:


Fabian W.

Bill -- I just watched that scene again, and it really was that obvious. Now I'm ashamed. I've always noticed Hill's reaction and the tilt and so on, but I just never connected the dots. That really adds a whole other level of sociopathic nastiness to that moment. But thanks for clearing that up!


Don't be ashamed, Fabian. I space on stuff like that all the time.

Fabian W.

Thanks. This reminds me of David Chase's apparent reaction to the ending of "Planet of the Apes" - "Wow, so they had a Statue of Liberty, too?"

David Boxwell

That recipe, God love her for a saint, makes no sense at all. A (one!) basil leaf? That won't flavor the "gravy"! A piece of meat? How big "a piece"? How do you brown meat on top of onions and garlic without burning them? Why take the trouble to take the meat out of the pot to add liquid and tomatoes?


Fabian - That's hilarious. I'd never heard that before and did, in fact, laugh out loud.

The Siren

David B., could she mean a bay leaf?


I was wondering the same thing, whether it was a basil leaf or a bay leaf. I'd also never heard the term a "pinch of garlic" before, although I suppose it's perfectly reasonable! I'm with Glenn on the crock pot: making life very easy this winter for delicious post-work sauces, and essentially foolproof. My main worry was whether it would also be cat-proof but so far so good. He did nibble on my Christmas cake, though, the little bugger.

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