Six years ago I spent a wonderful day in the kitchen with my mother-in-law, Ida. She taught me the secrets to making her red sauce in hopes that the recipe would stay in the family forever. I am sharing it with you, my family and friends...with Ida's blessing...so that her sauce...the BEST Italian Red Sauce ever...is never forgotten.
Ida grew everything herself in her well-tended garden...from little seeds and/or bulbs in her greenhouse...to drying her peppers by hanging them in the garage and grinding them herself. From her tomatoes - fresh and boiled and jarred to hand making all her own pasta..this woman could do it all. She even hosted dinners for a dozen family members at a time...always with at least 5 courses...all made by hand and with love. And that was until she was 90!! She could run circles around me any day! I hope that Ida knows how special she is and what a wonderful family she raised...especially my husband :)...and I hope you all enjoy this sauce.
I have personally eaten this sauce ladled over pasta...both fresh and boxed, over rice, shirataki noodles, on a bed of sautéed spinach, in lasagna, and simply by the spoonful. It is so satisfying and it truly stands out as something special. Don't be daunted by all the steps...it is completely doable and totally worth it!
Jars or cans of tomatoes...depending on amount you want to make...see notes below
Canola and olive oil
Italian parsley bunch
1 package pork neck
3 lbs ground veal
2 lbs ground pork
minced garlic clove
3 1/2 eggs
salt and pepper
2 handfuls breadcrumbs (truly that's her measurement :)
salt and pepper
Sausages (homemade or store-bought)
Pork Shoulder chunks
Start a day ahead with the pork necks. Get a large bowl that can fit in your fridge. Cover the raw pork neck bones in cold water with a few raw whole cloves of peeled garlic and lots of salt. Leave these for at least a day in the fridge.
After a day, rinse the bones in a colander. If they are too fatty - remove some of the fat. If they are too wet - dry with a paper towel. Set aside
The meat rolls, pork ribs and sausages are all optional. They do impart a lot more flavour to the sauce, but you can get by with simply making a smaller batch of sauce with meatballs only.
If you wish to make the meat rolls...see the pictures...they really help. Cut thin filets of veal. Layer with a thin strip of pork shoulder, a couple really thin slices of fresh garlic on the meat along with a couple pieces of parsley and roll up and tie with kitchen string.
Make the meatballs...mix the ground meats in a large bowl. Add a small handful of chopped parsley, a few minced garlic cloves, 3 1/2 eggs, and a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper to taste. You can always add more salt but you can't take it away. It's easy to simply warm up a fry pan and take a teaspoon of meat and fry and taste to check the seasoning and overall flavour before you form all those meatballs.
Form meatballs. See picture. They should be a little flat but egg/football shaped so they fry up nicely in the pan, but still hold together well. This amount of meat makes 36 meatballs but you can easily half the recipe to make a small batch. I prefer a large batch if I have freezer space. That way, I can make lasagna or you can share the sauce, as Ida did, with family at the end of sauce day.
Use the best quality jars/cans of tomatoes. Use whole jarred tomatoes if you like but drain out a bit of the water if you do. I like tall jars of tomatoes from Italy. Already pureed...even better. But you can use a mix of both if you like. 8 to 12 jars will make a large batch of sauce. Use a hand blender if not already done for you. Pour the tomato sauce into a very large pot. Set aside. In a sink near stove is best.
Prep and cook meat
Get all your meats ready. Defrost if frozen. Dry them if needed.
Preheat a large frypan on medium. Add 2 tbsp each canola and olive oils.
Fry neck bones first. Bone side down so meat doesn't stick. Fry necks on all sides. Using tongs, remove to a colander that is over a pie plate or something else that can catch extra drippings.
Pour the drippings that are in the frying pan into your large pot of pureed tomatoes.
Clean fry pan after every step so you never have burnt bits or impurities in your sauce.
Fry meatballs in batches so there's space between them.
Don't worry about the amount of oil...it is all apart of the flavour. Use the canola and olive oils with every batch of meat. Pour all drippings into tomato sauce.
Fry all other meats...ribs, meat rolls, extra pork shoulder, sausages...
Now for the sauce
Put the big pot of tomato sauce and oil mix on to stovetop
Boil without the lid for 15 minutes
Add the cooked pork neck and lower heat to simmer
Add meat rolls 15 minutes later
About an hour after start, add a tied bunch of parsley (to be removed later) and some fresher chopped garlic...depending on how much sauce you are making
Add meatballs and sausages
Add salt and pepper to taste
The above takes place over an hour and a half. It should simmer for another hour and a half. (3 hours total).