If you’ve read my blog long enough, you must know by now that I’m somewhat obsessed with slow cooked tomato sauces. There’s something deeply comforting about them, it reminds me of my mom’s bolognese during my childhood and for a chilly night, it on top of pasta just hits the spot. Actually, it was what I craved when I returned from Beijing last year!

Sunday Sauce

It was only natural then that I became absolutely fascinated with the idea of Sunday sauce, what I imagine must be the Italian-American equivalent of a Sunday roast. Another name for it that comes up is Sunday gravy but I’m not clear on the etymology of it. I then recently caught an episode of Two Greedy Italians in which Gennaro Contaldo made a ragù alla Napoletana, a slow simmered tomato sauce cooked with plenty of meat. This surely must be the origin of the Sunday sauce (I have no confirmation of this – this is purely speculation!). A few Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon putting together my own Sunday sauce.

The Meat

This recipe takes about 2 and a half hours from start to finish. I’ve listed the meats that I used in my sauce but any pork, beef or veal cut that benefits from long, slow cooking would work here. Meatballs would also be lovely in here but I’d add them in for the last 30 minutes of simmering. This was fantastic; all the meats had given their meaty goodness to the tomatoes making for a rich, hearty sauce. At the end, you can even fish out all the meat and serve it separately  – or, y’know, just serve it all at once (it makes for a rather grand-looking lot of food). Or even serve it like a stew with some good bread on the side. The recipe makes quite a bit of ragù for two people but it keeps very well and heck, there’s nothing wrong with eating it all week (which we did).

With Pasta

Sunday Sauce (Ragù alla Napoletana)
adapted from Two Greedy Italians and uh… this scene from The Godfather.
serves 6-8.

3 tbsps olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves (optional), minced
about 500g Italian sausages, cut into large chunks
about 500g pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
about 500g stewing beef, cut into large chunks
200ml red wine
3 tbsps tomato paste
3 cans (400g each) of chopped tomatoes
a small handful of fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

This recipe is just stupid easy. Get yourself a large heavy pot. Heat it over medium heat, add the olive oil and let it heat. Add the onions and the garlic if you’re using it and cook until the onions become translucent. Add all the meat to the pan and stir occasionally, letting whatever’s at the bottom brown nicely. You could do this in batches but I found this worked just fine.

Dilute the tomato paste in some water and pour it into the pot along with the wine. Let it bubble away until it has been greatly reduced. Pour in the canned tomatoes, tear in the basil and add some salt and black pepper. Stir well – you want the meat to be all submerged. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat so the mixture is simmering. Half cover the pot and let simmer for 2 hours. Check occasionally – if it’s getting too dry, add some water. I found that I didn’t need to add anything since the pot was partially covered.

Adjust the seasoning to taste (even some sugar if you feel it needs it). Take out the meat and arrange on a platter. Boil up some pasta (I used fusilli but spaghetti is good too) and mix with some of the sauce – you may have more sauce than you need (not a bad thing). Serve the pasta as the first course and the meat second or just serve it all up together as we did.

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