My friend Michaela sends in this recipe that’s perfect for a big family gathering or any night you have Tony and Carmela over for dinner.
This is an adaptation of a recipe from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite Buonopane. When I lived in Boston in 1997-98, we developed the habit of eating in the north end as often as we could – and definitely every time my parents visited. On one of those visits, my dad picked up this cookbook from a stand in Faneuil Hall, and it has turned out to be a winner.
Made famous by Michaela in southern Maine
1 lb Italian sausage – mix of hot and sweet
2 lbs meatballs
2 or 3 lean spareribs [we sometimes use bone-in pork chops when the grocery store is out of spareribs]
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
7-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
pinch each of dried basil, red pepper flakes, mint
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz can tomato sauce
1 28-oz can water
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the meats of your choice in the oil in a large heavy saucepan. [Do this in batches if you have a lot.] When the meat is browned, transfer it to a platter. Add a bit of oil to the pan juices; when hot, saute the onion, garlic and seasonings until the onion is transparent.
Stir in the tomato paste and blend well. Add the tomatoes and sauce, and stir until blended with the tomato paste and oil mixture. Stir in an extra pinch of the seasonings. Add water, using the 28-oz can from the tomatoes. Keep adding water until the sauce remains the thickness you desire; we usually use the whole can.
Let the sauce come to a full boil; add salt and pepper to taste, along with an additional pinch of the herbs. Return the meat to the pan. Then simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for at least an hour, or until all the meat is fully cooked. [We save the meatballs until the end; otherwise they’ll fall apart in the sauce.] Stir gently every 15 minutes or so, using a large wooden spoon.
Serve with pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. The sauce also freezes well, which is good, because this recipe makes a ton.