The line from Goodfellas goes like this. “Did you put in the pork?” And the response? “Well, that’s the flava….” Pork is an essential ingredient in my Sunday sauce. I say Sunday sauce (or gravy for those of you from Hoboken), because this type of a rich Bolognese type sauce was typically prepared on a Sunday, with the entire clan clustered around the table reaching for the meat, which was always served on the side.
With various meats forming the base of it, this rich American version of an Italian classic has its roots in Southern Italy. It has as many variations as there are Italian nonnas. I’ve heard of everything from beef oxtails to pork ribs to pepperoni to even chicken wings used to create this oh so comforting food.
I used to fantasize about making this sauce and mistakenly thought that the longer the simmering process, the richer the sauce. To an extent that is true, because the sauce continues to concentrate as it cooks. But one need not invest the better part of a Sunday to create what I think is a rich, complex and delicious sauce. I’ve added sausage and meatballs as you can see, but the sauce on its own is simple and delicious. Enjoy.
Sunday Spaghetti Sauce
1.5 pounds of pork spare ribs, cut into two to three rib portions
1 medium onion chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup red wine
3 large cans of tomatoes packed in tomato puree, run through a food mill (I prefer Cento brand–San Marzano tomatoes)
1 cup of water
Preheat oven to 450F. In a large Dutch oven, place three tablespoons of olive oil and the ribs, turning to coat. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes until brown. Take out of the oven and remove the ribs to a separate plate. Set aside. After allowing the pan to cool, blot up the liquid in the bottom of the pan with paper towels.
Place the pan on the stove and add two or three tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, sauté the onions until soft and translucent, add the garlic and turn the heat down to low. Continue stirring and add the tomato paste, frying the tomato paste for a minute or so. Add the red wine and simmer for two to three minutes to burn off the alcohol.
Add the tomato puree and the water, season with salt and pepper and return the ribs to the pot. Simmer over low heat until the ribs are falling off the bone, about two hours. Except for the occasional stir, the pot, over LOW heat, can remain unattended.
Remove the pork ribs from the pot and allow to cool. Shred the pork meat and measure out 1 ½ cups. Return the pork meat to the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Serve over pasta of your choice with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.