Mostly when I crave a meat-based sauce for pasta I make a Bolognese with ground sirloin. Sometimes, however, only Sunday sauce will do -- even on a Friday!
This simmered for a good two and a half hours and is gorgeous -- San Marzano tomatoes, basil and oregano, garlic and onions, red wine...as well as beef and Parmesan meatballs, cubed pork shoulder and sweet Italian sausage.
Again this week, contrary to my usual methodology of a recipe for one, I made a vat of this sauce which translated to dinner for one and eight pint jars happily lined up in the freezer for this winter when the urge strikes.
1 lb cubed pork shoulder stew meat
1 lb meatloaf mix (1/3 each ground veal, pork and beef)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced, more if you really like garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 - 2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch roughly chopped fresh basil leaves and tender stems (remove the very woody ones) + 1/2 cup more and some more for garnish
1/3 bunch chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped against the palm of your hand above the pan before adding to the sauce so as not to lose any of the yummy juices)
2 cups passata or tomato puree
3 Tbsps tomato concentrate
1 cup dry red wine
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
First make your meatballs. Mix the ground meat with the Parmesan and parsley as well as some salt and liberal amounts of black pepper. Form into smooth meatballs of equal size -- I usually aim for meatballs the size of golf balls. Set them aside on a plate.
Heat the oil in a very large stock pot over medium until it shimmers. As soon as it does, salt the pork shoulder cubes on all sides and start browning it in batches, taking care not to over crowd the pan. This can take between 3 and 5 minutes a side depending on the size and thickness of the meat. As you brown each batch, set it aside in a large bowl.
Then brown the sausages, about two minutes a side, before setting them aside in the bowl as well.
Do the same for the meatballs, which will take about two minutes per side as well.
Once all of the meat has been browned, pour off all of the fat that has accumulated in the pan, except for a couple of teaspoons worth. Slightly lower the heat and add the onion, garlic, oregano, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Salt lightly and cook, stirring often, until the garlic smells amazing and the onion pieces are starting to soften, a couple of minutes.
Add the tomato concentrate and sugar to the pan and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. This will allow the tinny taste of the concentrate to dissipate.
Pour in the red wine and cook for three minutes or so, stirring often to allow the alcohol to dissipate. Scrape along the bottom of the pan when you stir to add all the browned bits left from browning the meat to the sauce.
Add the passata, the tomatoes (chopped as described above), the basil and 2 cups of water to the pan and stir to combine. Salt slightly.
Gingerly add the pork and sausages and the accumulated meat juices back into the pan, making sure that all pieces of meat are covered with sauce.
Lower the hob to its lowest setting, cover the pan partially and allow to bubble very gently for two hours, stirring at the hour mark and bringing the meat at the bottom of the pan to the top each time.
After two hours, remove the sausages to a bowl. Pour the tomato sauce through a sieve into another bowl. Remove the pork meat from the sieve, discard all other solids.
Wash the pan and pour the tomato sauce back into it along with the remaining half cup of chopped basil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Using two forks, shred the pork meat before adding it back to the pan. Stir to combine well. Add the meatballs and sausage to the pan. Bring back to the boil before lowering the heat and letting bubble away for an additional 20 minutes so that the meatballs cook through.
Serve over your favorite pasta with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and some chopped basil.
This is a multi-hour to the table dish, but with very little actual hands on time. And is well worth it.