I make this sauce once a year. Mainly because it has pork in it and I very seldom eat pork because pigs are nice animals. Actually, ALL animals are nice and I promise that someday I'm going to stop eating them. Probably when people stop asking me to cook them.
In a perfect world, you should make this sauce WEEKS in advance, and freeze it. Once again (are you listening, Anthony?) my lack of freezer space forced me to wait until two days before Christmas last year, and it almost killed me. Listen up, Italian girls: The next time some jamoke tells you he loves you and promises you the moon, look deep into his eyes and say in a husky voice, "I want a freezer. Size matters."
It's not that the sauce is hard to make. In fact, it's easy. It's just that on Christmas, I'm making a triple recipe because it's for the Christmas lasagna (with extra sauce on the side) AND Christmas Eve dinner, per the request of my children, who - so far - don't know what it's like to "do" Christmas. (You know what, Nikki and Nino? All those nice gifts and the decorations and the cookies and the meals and the nice clean sheets on the beds? They didn't get here courtesy of the shoemaker's elves.)
This recipe is loosely based on one from "The Italian Cookbook" by the Culinary Arts Institute, which was in Chicago. Even though it's out of print, you can get it on Amazon. If you can't find a copy, write to me and I'll Xerox it for you. Really. That's how much I want you to eat good food.
Tomato Meat Sauce
Put six big cans of peeled Italian tomatoes (pelati) in the blender, one can at a time. Pour the pureed tomatoes into a REALLY big pot. Brown a couple of chopped onions in olive oil and add to the pot. Now brown a chuck roast and a pork shoulder (you could do this in the oven, I suppose). How big should the chuck roast and the pork shoulder be? How much are your guests going to eat on Christmas Eve? You don't use the meat to make the lasagna (the lasagna uses different meat), only the sauce.
Put the chuck roast and the pork shoulder into the pot. Add a couple of bay leaves and a tablespoon of salt. If you need more salt, add it later after you taste the sauce. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat, and cover the pot. Let simmer over very low heat for at least a couple of hours. Stir it once in a while.
Take the cover off the pot. Add three small cans of tomato paste. You can add some water if the sauce gets too thick. Now simmer uncovered for another couple of hours, and don't forget to stir so it doesn't scorch on the bottom. When the sauce is done (that's when the meat starts falling apart), take out the bay leaves, if you can find them.
Serve the sauce over the pasta of your choice. My pasta of choice is usually leftover noodles from making the lasagna. It looks fancy. Have some fresh ricotta and some grated pecorino-romano cheese on the side for toppings. Serve the meat on a platter and make sure you put it in the middle of the table, because it's impressive.
Of course, you're going to make your Christmas lasagna before Christmas Eve dinner, so the sauce you're serving is what's left over. Make sure you set aside extra sauce for the Christmas lasagna. You GOTTA have extra sauce with lasagna, because sauce junkies exist in every Italian family, and they will never let you forget the one time you didn't have extra sauce. And by Christmas Eve dinnertime, when that lasagna is resting comfortably in the fridge, your job is DONE for the holiday, because the kids are gonna eat store-bought panettone for breakfast and like it.
So now you can pour yourself another glass of red. And wait for Santa to drop a freezer down your chimney.
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