When I married my husband, after the vows of for better or worse were spoken...there was one more vow...I had to learn how to make the sauce! For you see, I was raised on Ragú and according to my husband of Italian heritage (New York, no less), that was grounds for divorce. Being a young and energetic bride, I quickly made an appointment to see Aida Capone Manganiello...the grand dame of the family (a.k.a. Grandma). This is what she taught me, and may her blessing come down from heaven as I share this with you.
This is Aida and Joe (a.k.a. Grandma & Grandpa)...they were crazy in love for each other and a real inspiration to the family.
The first thing you have to have...a most essential ingredient when cooking anything Italian...is passion!! The ability to suffer and blend this component into your cooking is most important...you literally can taste it! More on this later.
Next, you need some quality ingredients...get the best you can afford as you will truly savor the results.
- very thin slice of round steak (the cut is known as "brajolé")
- Fresh parsley
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh garlic
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage or pork spare rib
- 1 1/2 pound chopped round meat (a.k.a. ground beef)
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 medium sized onion
- olive oil
- 3 oz. can of tomato paste
- 2 - 28 oz. cans of peeled tomatoes
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Step One: The Brajolé
This a man's favorite part of the sauce...enough said. Because he was the eldest of the clan, Johnny would always get the brajolé, and there was no sharing involved...until I came along...and that is how we announced our love to the world! It was quite scandalous!
Take the thin piece of steak and lay it flat like a piece of bread. Then sprinkle on top:
- about 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- pinches of salt & fresh ground pepper
- one clove of garlic as a lining
Roll up the steak into a tight cigar shape. Tie the roll with white twine or lightweight roping and knot...the goal here is to secure the brajolé so you can cook it without all the goodies falling out. I made three for my sauce...but all you need is one.Step Two: The Meat-a-balls!
Everyone loves a good meatball, so keep this in mind when you are making them...keep them about 1 1/2 inches in diameter so you can get at least 2 dozen out of this mixture.
Take 1 1/2 pounds of chopped ground beef and add:
- 5 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 1 tsp. salt
- black pepper (just a about three turns on your pepper mill)
- dusting of Parmesan cheese (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
Mix this together with your hands (this isn't for sissies, so dig in!). Wash your hands and get ready to roll. With clean moist hands, make golfball sized meat balls, wetting hands with hot water whenever it starts sticking to your hands. Set aside. Next, take the Italian sausage and cut it into 2 inch pieces...this makes it easier to cook.
Chop the onion...my assistant had a great idea for chopping onions...swimming goggles prevents the tearing! Now you are ready to put it all together!
Step Three: Browning the meat
You need a heavy bottom large sauce pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil (about 1/2 cup). Saute onions until they are starting to become transparent. Add brajolé and sausage to the pot and brown evenly.Pull out the brajolé and sausage along with the onion and set aside. Leave all the browned bits in the pot. Then place each meatball in the pot and turn gently with a fork. Jostle them until slightly browned...all the meat will continue to cook in the sauce when it simmers so no worries! Pull meatballs out with a fork and spoon. Set aside. Take pan off the burner and turn off the heat.
Step Four: The Sauce
Pulverize the two cans of peeled tomatoes in a blender.
Now back to the sauce pan...remove excess oil from the bottom of the pan...you want just enough to cover the bottom of the pan (sometimes if you use lean meat, you won't have to remove anything. It will be just enough.)
Add tomato paste to the saucepan. Fill paste can with water. Put aside. Add blended tomatoes to the sauce pan. Return the saucepan to stove and bring to a gentle boil. When the sauce is bubbly, replace the brajolé, sausage, and meatballs to the pan. Add 4 big basil leaves. Rinse meat containers with water in the paste can and put into the sauce...no wasting here! Salt the sauce as desired. Simmer 1 1/2 hours at least. Enjoy alone or on pasta...invite friends...this enough to feed an army! :)
Step Five: The Suffering
Now, back to the suffering part...I made this sauce yesterday with my daughters, and my husband came home and said, "Oh great, I promised to bring something into work tomorrow because we are having a pot-luck lunch." While we had enough to share, nothing says I love you like watching the fruits of your labor drive away the next morning! Hope they all enjoyed it!
One more note: I share this recipe with you because it is really delicious and something you must try at least once in your life...if you take this recipe beyond your personal use...you will answer to Aida! :)