I made Sunday Sauce and I think the only faux pas is that I technically made it on Saturday. Other than that, I think it’s the real deal. Autentico. Sunday Gravy that would make a Nonna proud.
I’ll hide behind my extremely non-Italian heritage when I admit that I never knew a classic red sauce was made from anything other than ground beef and Prego (please please don’t judge!) until I watched Anthony Bourdain eat a Sunday sauce in Naples and the born-and-bred Neopolitan Nonna he dined with made it with large cuts of pork and sausage. Mind = blown; appetite = whetted.
Italian food is a complete curiosity to me because I know less about it than probably any other cuisine. I can tell you if something is authentically French or not, but you don’t want me cooking from the mother land for your Italian boss. There might be Prego, you might get fired… it could get messy. Lucky for me, I found this totally fabulous (nerd alert) article on the variations of ragu throughout Italy, written by an Italian. Boom!! The Prego girl can be taught!
All of the ragu variations in this article make my salivary glands work double-time, but I started with the Sicilian sauce because it involves pork sausage (yay!) and it doesn’t require me going to 5 stores in Knoxville to find duck legs (yay! yay!) like the Venetian sauce. (But I’m making all the others this year, too. I might even start wearing stilettos to Kroger and figure out how to install a car seat on a Vespa. If I start calling Emma ‘Emilia,’ I’ll need an intervention.)
This sauce is, in a word, crazyawesome. It’s so rich, so meaty, so flavorful. It’s also sooooo easy, but as with any easy recipe, it means you have to use really good ingredients: really good Italian sausage, high-quality pork, and spring for the good tomatoes you’re always trying to justify buying in the imported aisle of the grocery store.
You know what I loved almost as much as eating it? Calling it Sunday Sauce, like I am a real Italian-American. Like I don’t need subtitles for Godfather II. Like I’ve never used Prego. Shhhhhhh…..
- 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lb boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 24-oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato purée
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 lb good Italian sausage
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the pork generously on both sides with salt and pepper and sear the meat on both sides until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the pork to a deep platter.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, 7 to 8 minutes. Return the pork to the pot, raise the heat to medium high, and add the wine. Let it bubble for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Remove the sausages from their casings and break the meat apart over the pot, allowing it to fall into the sauce in small clumps. Cover the pot and simmer gently, adjusting the heat as necessary, for 2-3 hours until very tender, turning the pork shoulder every 30 minutes.
- Transfer the pork to a large rimmed plate with tongs and let cool for a few minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Cook over low heat until the meat and sauce are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with bountiful freshly grated parm!!