For the longest time I have wanted to try Dear Husband's mother's recipe for red sauce, but for some reason, it's just never happened. I announced my intent last January, thinking we could cook together before boating season arrived, but we just couldn't seem to find a weekend where we could play in the kitchen. I wanted DH's guidance and memories as we put together this sauce.
Dear Husband's mother was Sicilian. When she wanted a sauce for her pasta, she made it from scratch. No Prego or Ragu for her! When DH and I married, I became the guardian of the Italian Sauce recipe.
A few months ago I bought some of the ingredients, and thought I'd give it a go. Then, Mother passed away and thoughts of the red sauce were put aside for a bit. FINALLY, last Monday, I decided that I would just do it last week, and got out my crock pot.
I started out the morning by browning a package of pork neck bones and Italian sausages. I put the browned meat and bones into a large crock pot, added all the other ingredients and let it simmer all day long. I'm sure Sarah cooked hers on the stove, but you have to be careful to diffuse the heat, or avoid stirring the burnt crust on the bottom of the pan into the sauce.
I doubled the recipe with the intent of using half of it that night, and freezing half of it. I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste of this very meaty sauce. We used it over rigatoni, and it made a very simple but satisfying supper. This sauce could easily be turned into an Italian ragu with the addition of a soffritto (a partially-fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, and carrots).
Here's Sarah's recipe:
2 small cans tomato sauce
2 small cans tomato paste
1 or 2 lbs. neck bones (pork only)
1 6 quart sauce pan with a cover or a screen
2 Tbsp. olive oil or corn oil
1 Tbsp. good Greek oregano
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar (can omit)
Options: 5-6 mushrooms, sliced, 1/4 of a green bell pepper, sliced, Chicken, Italian sausage or hamburger can be added to the pork bones, but you will need a larger pot.
In your large sauce pan, brown neck bones, and other meats if using, in oil. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat(s) have been browned, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Rinse the cans and add the rinse liquid to the pot. The pot must be 3/4 FULL of liquid. If there is not enough liquid from rinsing the cans, add more water.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid begins to boil. While stirring, add all the spices/seasonings and any mushrooms or green peppers you want.
Lower the heat so that the sauce simmers, and simmer for four hours, stirring occasionally. Remember not to stir up the crust from the bottom of the pot, or the sauce will taste burnt. Cover the pan with a splatter screen to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters.
Remove the neck bones from the sauce and use the sauce as needed.
I doubled the recipe, and cooked it in a crock pot on low through out the day. I omitted the sugar to begin with, but Dear Husband taste tested it and said it needed the sugar, and I agreed. DH feels that it could use a little more salt.
Cook's Illustrated did a study of beef stew and determined the best way to make it taste really beefy was to add mushrooms. You could add mushrooms to this sauce, but I think the neck bones make it meaty enough. I added two links of Italian sausage, and next time plan to add the entire package of five links.
When it was time to discard the bones, we discovered that the tiniest of neck bones can be very hard to find. Spend time in your search, to be sure you get them all.
Sarah advised removing the Italian sausage from the cooked sauce, but we left it in. DH calls this sauce "gravy," and tested it by putting a heel of Italian bread into it.
Give this a try. Don't wait twenty years to do it, as I did.