As children, we knew it was Sunday just by waking to the aromas permeating throughout the house! The onions & garlic sauteing, the browning of the sausages, pork pieces, braciole, and meatballs. On the counter were the cans of tomatoes waiting to be added to bring together our family’s Sunday meat sauce…brings back the best childhood memories of our family’s ritual of making the Sunday sauce or gravy as our Neopolitan Mom and Grandma Florence called it.
It was a time for the whole family to sit down together, enjoy delicious food while catching up with everyone’s life, and we always laughed a lot. With some of us moving to different parts of the country we miss that weekly gathering. To this day, we still make our sauce the very same way. Like any family favorites, we think ours is the Best! So when family members come to visit we recreate those special Sunday dinners and we all just love being together again.
Twiins Family Favorite Sunday Meat Sauce & Pasta Dinner
Homemade Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausages, Pork Country Ribs & Meatballs with Pasta
Fresh Basil Leaveschopped or ribbons for garnish, optional
Add a drizzle of EVOO to 8 qt stock pot and brown all sausages & ribs (it may take 2 batches to complete).
Once browned, remove meat and place in a deep bowl. Set aside.
Add 2 Tablespoons EVOO to the already hot remaining oil & fond in the stockpot (fond is all the wonderful browned pieces of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot). Once the EVOO is hot enough, add diced onion & saute on medium-low heat until they start to carmelize.
Add the minced garlic, fresh basil leaves, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and stir. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the 2 cans of Hunt's tomato paste. Mix well and cook for about 1 minute. Add the San Marzano Whole Tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a fork. The tomatoes will cook down after 4 hours. Add the bottle of Mutti tomato puree then combine well.
Add the sausages and country ribs to the sauce and stir well. Continue cooking sauce on a low simmer for 3-4 hours until ribs and sausages are very tender or start to fall apart.
Prepare the meatball mixture (The Best Napoletana Meatballs recipe). Shape mixture into 1 ½-inch round meatballs (or whatever size you prefer). In a large frying pan pour in enough canola oil to a depth of 1/2-inch. Heat the oil until hot. Add the meatballs and brown on both sides on medium heat. Remove and place in a bowl until 20 minutes before the sauce is done. Don't worry if there are too many meatballs for one dinner. They can be cooked and frozen for another meal or make some delicious meatball parm heroes the next day.
20 minutes before the sauce is done, add the meatballs and stir gently. Continue on a low simmer for 20 minutes.
Once you add the meatballs to the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good amount of salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
In the meantime, remove all the meat from the saucepot once the meatballs have simmered for 20 minutes in the sauce. Place in a large bowl or platter. After cooking the sauce for 4 hours (or more) the whole tomatoes break down however you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out if you don't like tiny pieces of tomato in your sauce.
Drain the pasta and pour a ladle or two of the sauce on top. Place pasta in a large, deep bowl. Portion out the pasta on individual plates with a meatball, sausage, or piece of rib meat (or all three!)
In our family, we top each plate with a dollop of whole milk ricotta, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and some chopped fresh basil leaves. Serve with warmed crusty sesame seed Italian bread & butter.
Brown sausages & country ribs
Caramelize onions, add minced garlic, dried oregano, saute then add tomato paste & blend well
Add fresh basil leaves
Simmer for 4 hours
Fry meatballs and add to the sauce for the last 20 minutes of simmering
The last 20 minutes of simmering with the meatballs
March 19th has always been a special day of celebration for our family for that’s the day we celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph). This feast honors Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and earthly father to Jesus. Considered by Sicilians as the Patron Saint of their region, St. Joseph is said to have saved Sicily’s residents during one of their many devastating droughts. It is believed that the residents prayed to St. Joseph for rain. Their prayers were answered when the rain came. Their spring crops were spared from being destroyed, which prevented a widespread famine for Sicily. It is believed that this is the reason the celebration is held in March.
We celebrate every year because Joseph is the namesake of several of our family members, starting with our grandfather, father, son/nephew and 2 grandsons (Joseph as their middle name).
The menu for a St. Joseph celebration is rooted in the Sicilian tradition and because the holiday falls during Lent, meat is not eaten during the celebration, hence the sardine sauce. We can remember Grandma Tessie cooking spaghetti with a combination of sardines, onions, fennels, & raisins for the sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs, known as the “poor man’s Parmigiano”, representing the sawdust left behind after a day’s work in his carpenter’s shop. She cooked this meal (which we grew to love) every March 19 until she was 97. At that last celebration, she asked who would carry on this tradition when she was gone. I told her not to worry, that I would. For the past 16 years, I have been making the Pasta con Sarde just as Grandma did, which is especially enjoyed by our Dad. The focus of the meal is on the Pasta con Sarde but we also enjoy the St. Joseph’s pastries. I always get them from Patsy’s & Son Italian Bakery in Lindenhurst, New York. They are the best I ever tasted and I’m a bit of a cannoli cream snob! If you find yourself on Long Island, do stop in to try their cannolis & cassata cake.
When Barbara was raising her family this was one of their favorite pasta dishes. Her youngest son always requests this delicious meal every time he visits from California and even asks her to cook this dish while visiting him. It’s a quick and easy meal.
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into 1″ pieces
16-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup chicken broth to cook broccoli
1/2 cup chicken broth,
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Oregano, dried
6 Tablespoons butter, divided into thirds
2 Tablespoons EVOO + additional as needed
2 garlic cloves, minced or frozen cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 box Pasta ( we used Farfalle, use any pasta of your choice)
reserve 1/2 cup cooked pasta water
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated for topping
In a large pot bring salted water to a boil to cook pasta.
When water boils lower heat just to keep water hot until ready to add the pasta.
Cook broccoli in chicken broth in a covered microwave-safe dish 6-7 minutes in a microwave. (make sure covering is vented).
In a large skillet or flat-bottomed wok add 1/3 the butter & EVOO until heated. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and softened, Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
Remove onion mixture and set aside.
Add additional 1/3 butter and EVOO to skillet. On med-high heat add chicken pieces & lightly brown quickly on both sides, being careful not to overcook.
Bring pasta water back to a boil and cook according to package directions.
Reduce skillet heat and add onion mixture back to the skillet, sprinkle the dried oregano onto the chicken and onions, continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
Add the cooked broccoli and chicken broth to skillet and stir well.
Add salt and pepper to taste, simmer another 3 minutes add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter to melt into the mixture.
Add cooked pasta to chicken mixture and toss well. If needed add reserved pasta water a little at a time until the desired consistency.
Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.
Note: Sauté mushrooms in butter for a variation as shown in the last photo below.
Add cubed eggplant to a colander along with a generous amount of course salt & drain for 30 minutes.
Heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add pancetta and cook 4-5 minutes until browned & crispy, stirring occasionally. Add sausage to skillet & cook 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Remove the sausage & pancetta with a slotted spoon. Set aside in large bowl.
Set aside 3 Tablespoons of the oil & fat from the skillet and discard the rest.
Add fennel & onions to skillet along with a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Add eggplant to fennel & onions and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Add the sausage & pancetta mixture back to the skillet.
Add crushed tomatoes, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 40 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
While mixture is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain pasta in a colander.
Add the pasta and the 1/2 cup pasta water to the skillet then cook 1 additional minute to incorporate. Stir in the 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese.
Add the pasta to a large serving bowl and top with spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and basil leaves.
This is a fabulous dish for a gathering of good friends accompanied by a simple salad, crusty Italian bread and a glass of dry red wine.