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Sunday gravy with sausage and meatballs


MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 center-cut pork chops (total weight, 1 to 1¼ pounds)

1¼ pounds Italian sweet sausage, halved horizontally

1 cup chopped onions

2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

3½ cups pureed canned tomatoes

4½ cups water

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

Cheese rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano or end bits of Pecorino Romano (optional)

Mary's Meatballs (recipe follows)

1 pound dried spaghetti or rigatoni

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot. Add pork chops and sausages and brown on all sides. Transfer pork chops to a plate to make room for the onions. (If your pot is too narrow, brown the pork chops first then transfer them to a plate and then brown the sausage.) Toss onions into the pot with garlic, fennel seeds and salt.

Saute over moderate heat, stirring frequently, and scraping up any bits left behind by the pork and sausages, until onions are soft and golden.

Put pork chops back in the pot with any juice on the plate. Add tomatoes, water and tomato paste. Drop in a few cheese rinds or ends if you have any. This is completely optional, but they give a nice flavor to the sauce.

Cover the pot, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Gently drop in the meatballs, one at a time, shaking the pot a bit to encourage them to nestle in with the pork and sausage and to make room for the addition of more meatballs. After all the meatballs have been added, continue to simmer, covered, for an hour longer, or until the pork chops are very tender.

To finish the gravy, transfer pork chops to a cutting board. Remove and discard the bones, chop up the meat, and return it to the sauce. Keep warm over heat while you cook pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt water and drop in the spaghetti. Cook, stirring often, until al dente.

Serving suggestion: Start with a large heated deep platter or pasta bowl. Cover bottom with a ladleful of gravy and a good sprinkling of Pecorino-Romano. Top with half the pasta. Add more gravy and cheese, remaining pasta, and another layer of gravy and cheese. Serve right away with grated cheese. Pass meatballs, sausage and pork and additional gravy in a bowl at the table.

Note: If this serves only 4 to 6, those are 4 to 6 hungry eaters. By adding more pasta, this could easily serve 10 generously. Mary's meatballs

MAKES 26 TO 28 MEATBALLS

12 ounces ground beef

4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed and discarded, cut into tiny cubes

¾ cup milk

¾ to 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, bread and milk. Add cheese, basil, parsley, egg and salt.

Mix gently but thoroughly. Form into small meatballs, no more than 1½ inches in diameter.

Nutrition facts per serving: 1114 calories, 56 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 211 mg cholesterol, 88 g carbohydrates, 61 g protein, 1596 mg sodium, 6 g fiber

From On Top of Spaghetti

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