The Smell of Sunday Dinner, Italian Style

February 6, 2017

Some things are sacred. Like the smell of Sunday dinner taking shape even before you have had your second cup of morning coffee. That’s the way it used to be in a lot of Italian homes. I remember the smell of onions hitting the pan as I woke up, my mother and grandmother already at the stove getting that “Sunday sauce” ready to cook just before going to church. That sauce was made more than rich and succulent with the addition of pork sausage, spareribs, meatballs and braciole. All that meat simmered together for a long time in the “passata” (tomato puree) that was put up the summer before with Dad’s homegrown plum tomatoes. Sometimes red wine was added and even a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

For Italians, making Sunday sauce is still standard practice but the younger generations are more inclined to use ready made tomato sauce, minus the meat as attitudes about food mores change. I would venture to say that the whole idea of a family sitting down to weekly Sunday dinner is now just a nostalgic pipe dream. We are much too busy these days with sports, social media and work to squeeze in any time for a sit down and conversation. And that is a pity because we are just cheating ourselves out of those sacred memories that connect us all to the past.

Sunday Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions minced
¼ cup tomato paste
3 to 4 cloves garlic chopped
6 boneless spareribs (or 4 bone in pork chops)
2 pound chuck roast (in one piece)
Four 28 ounce cans crushed plum tomatoes
1 cup red wine
Salt and pepper
Small bunch parsley and basil tied with string
Meatballs already formed but not baked

In a large sauce pot, heat the olive oil; add the onions and wilt them down; then stir in the tomato paste and coat the onions well and continue cooking until they are almost a deep brown color. Stir in the garlic and cook until it softens. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add additional oil if the saucepan seems dry. Add the spareribs or pork chops and brown them; transfer the pork chops to a dish. Add the chuck roast and brown well.

Return the spareribs or pork chops to the pan along with the onion mixture. Stir in the tomatoes, wine salt, pepper and sugar. Mix well; cover and cook over simmering flame for 30 minutes. Add the herbs. Continue cooking over low heat for 2 to 3 hours.

Meanwhile bake or fry the meatballs. Add them to the sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Serve the meats cut into pieces as a second course and serve the sauce over cooked pasta, either spaghetti, rigatoni or ziti.

Note: this can also be made in a slow cooker.

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