A staple in every Italian kitchen is tomato sauce. Ever since I was growing up, I could remember my mother spending hours– many times the entire day– preparing a rich, flavorful tomato sauce. The scent of the tomato sauce filling the house, and carrying out into the street fill my childhood memories. Preparing the tomato sauce was an art, and remains an art today. Getting the ingredients right and including meatballs, porkchops, sausages, and other meats to add to the richness of the sauce, helped make tomato sauce a classic in my household and I hope it will do the same for yours.
In this inaugural episode, my son, Gary Lombardo and I walk through how to prepare the classic tomato sauce and meatballs, as well as other meats. It won’t take you all day, but you will need about 90 minutes or so to do things right. Enjoy Episode 1 and check out the recipe below. As always, leave us your thoughts!
Classic Tomato Sauce
For enough sauce to feed about 4-6 people, you will need:
2 28 oz cans of pureed tomatos (Pastene Kitchen Ready is recommended) or you can prepare your own tomato from fresh garden tomatoes (you probably want to stick with homegrown garden tomatoes)
1 small white onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of virgin olive oil, 2 half teaspoons of sugar, water
Heat the olive oil at a medium heat in a large sauce pan. Dice about 1/4 of the onion and all of the garlic. Place diced up garlic and onions into the oil and sautee until the garlic is golden brown and the onions are translucent. Add a half teaspoon of sugar to each can of pureed tomato. Pour cans of tomatoes into the sauce pan with the onion and garlic. Add about 1 cup of water (add to the cans to get excess of tomatoes in the can). Lower heat, let simmer and prepare the pork chops, sausage and meatballs in the meantime.
Meatballs, Pork Chops and Sausage
Adding meat is key to giving a tomato sauce a rich flavor. You can use any kind of meat you’d like, but I like to use pork chops, Italian sausage (with fennel), and beef or turkey meatballs. I usually use about 4 sausages and 2 pork chops, but you can use as many as you’d like. You should start cooking the pork chops and sausage first since they take more time to cook. So start off by heating about a 1/4 cup of oil in a frying pan, and then add the sausages and pork chops. The goal is to just get them brown enough in the frying pan, then transfer them to the tomato sauce to finish cooking. Brown the pork chops and sausages on each side, just enough for them to get golden brown all around. Transfer them into the same pan as the tomato sauce, stir them in and let them simmer. Now, get the meatballs ready!
The key to any meatball are breadcrumbs. You can make breadcrumbs from a loaf of bread or buy unseasoned breadcrumbs, which would be less work. Either way, you will need to season your breadcrumbs before adding them to meatballs or any other dish. I usually make a large quantity of breadcrumbs at once and store the extra in the freezer. Mix 3-4 cups of breadcrumbs in a cuisinart (or by hand) with about 5 tablespoons of chopped parsley,1/4 cup of percorino romano cheese (fine grated), 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspsoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed– you don’t want any chunky sections.
Now that you have your breadcrumbs completed, you’re ready to make your meatballs. 1-1.25 pounds of ground meet will make about 12-13 golfball sized meatballs. Place the ground meat in a large bowl and mix with 1 cup of the seasoned breadcrumbs you made, 1 egg (2 eggs if beef), and about 3 tablespoons of water splashed on top. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly with your hands, making sure all ingredients are smoothly integrated in the ground meat. Take a small handful of meat and roll them into golf-sized meatballs. (You can make them as large or small if you’d like– that will depend upon your preference). Once you’ve rolled them all out, place them in hot olive oil in a frying pan and fry them until golden brown all around. Similar to the pork and sausages, you don’t need to cook them all the way through since they will finish being cooked in the sauce. Once you’ve finished frying them, place them directly in the sauce. Stir them in, and let it simmer for about 60-90 minutes, making sure all the meat is cooked and giving plenty of time for the sauce to absorb the flavor of the meat. You can add fresh basil, crushed red pepper or oregano if you’d like, but I typically do not.
When you’re ready to serve, take all the meat out of the sauce and place in a large platter. Mix the tomato sauce with some al dente pasta, top it with some fresh percorino romano or parmesan cheese and enjoy!