I am not of Italian descent. I say this in all transparency because I’m sure I’m being all that authentic when it comes to this sauce and meatball recipe. But I can tell you this: it’s delicious. I’ve been in enough Italian households to appreciate the lovely, homey and tantalizing smell of a hearty red sauce bubbling away on the stove. It’s all one can do not to rip a hunk of crusty bread and dive right in! This is an homage to a great Italian cook – Frannie – whose sauce is legendary and to whom this is dedicated. The addition of the pork and pepperoni…along with cooking your raw meatballs in the sauce provides a supreme depth of flavor that makes it great. It also makes a ton – so you can freeze the leftovers!
Serves Six to Eight
Time: Two Hours (minimum) Preparation
1 ½ pounds meatloaf mix (approximate)
¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
¼ grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
3-4 dashes balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
In a large bowl, combine meatloaf mix, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Gently mix. In a separate mixing bowl, combine mustard, eggs, balsamic, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix completely. Add to meat mixture. Thoroughly combine, but don’t over mix – try to keep it light. Form into meatballs with an ice cream scoop. Yield should be around 16-18 meatballs.
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
3 pork ribs – salt and peppered
1 ½ sticks of pepperoni – cut into ¼ inch slices.
4 cloves of garlic minced – or two healthy teaspoons of jarred minced garlic
1 red onion finely chopped
Bundle of fresh thyme (7-8 sprigs of fresh thyme tied together with kitchen twine)
4 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
1 5-ounce can tomato paste
4-5 dashes balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp sugar
½ cup chicken or mushroom stock Method:
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to high heat. When hot, add ribs and sliced pepperoni along with thyme bundle. Cook for about 3-4 minutes and flip ribs. You should see a bit of browning. Keep tossing pepperoni to prevent burning. After 4 minutes, remove ribs, pepperoni and thyme bundle. Pour off rendered oil.
Reduce heat to medium low. Add onion, garlic, thyme bundle and 2 tablespoons olive oil back into dutch oven. Allow onion and garlic to soften – about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste. Give a few turns with a spoon – allow the paste to blend with onion mixture…about 3 minutes. Pour in crushed tomatoes. Add balsamic, sugar and stock. Stir to combine. Allow that to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the pork and pepperoni back into sauce. Bring the heat back up to medium and bring to a soft boil. Once boiling, add the raw meatballs into sauce. Ensure that all meatballs are covered with sauce. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 60 minutes.
After 60 minutes, remove cover and continue to cook for another 40 minutes – allowing sauce to thicken. Stir (carefully) every once and a while to make sure nothing is sticking. Taste the sauce for seasoning. It should be meaty and rich. Remove a meatball and cut through to ensure it’s cooked through. There should be no pink, but it will be tender.
At this point, the sauce is pretty much done – keep it on low/simmer to keep the good smells in the house.
A great day for me is preparing great meals for friends and family. I enjoy experimenting with new ingredients and also updating classics that I've enjoyed for years. I love to travel and try lots of new cuisines - and wouldn't be anything without the love of my family!