Il ragù della domenica (Sunday slow cooked meat & tomato sauce)
|March 18, 2012||Posted by ameliaps under Italian, italy, sauces, tomato, tomatoes|
“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.” ~ Nigel Slater
I just finished reading “Toast” by Nigel Slater. I am wiping off my tears from the last page, as I sit in my kitchen, chopping onions and carrots to make Sunday ragu’… unsure if the tears are from the onions or the way the book touched me deeply with its human nakedeness and nostalgia. I am transported to a different era, to a place in time and space… to my own growing up, with its special, quirky, unique memories.
Because I strongly believe that our life can be told through foods, and while I know it’s been written about before, I wanted to write out my family’s version of the “ragù della domenica” (Sunday ragout sauce). Yes, it is a bit cliché, no doubt!,..but, you know, sometimes, as we grow older, it’s in the clichés that we find comforting memories and heart-warming feelings… and yes, I am obviously getting older (and probably would not have written this story 10 years ago the way I am writing it now), so forgive my indulgence. Oh, and I also believe it is impossible not to love someone who makes ragu’ for you…
Once upon a time, many years ago, my father lived in a small town called “Piano”, near Sorrento. When he was just twenty-two he lost his father and was left with his mother and eight sisters (no brothers), the youngest of which was nine years old. His mother (my nonna Amelia), was a very strong and amazing woman who more than everything wanted to preserve the family unit, no matter how rogue and numerous. For until she was alive, every Sunday, she would gather all the family members at her home: children, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, bringing everyone together around a long table. When I was very young, at the end of the meal, I would stand up on that table and dance and recite a poem to everyone…that’s what the little ones did. There would be lots of laughing, games, delicious meals… and of course plenty of gossips and quarrels even, as in every numerous family. There was always a lot of energy and a bit of drama but during dinner, the ragu’ reign sovereign and hearts stopped pounding so fast to slow down and come together in unity. Just to start running again right after il caffe’, of course. And then it was back to life as usual, each one to their own families, until the next Domenica (Sunday). No matter how complicated, family is family.
This is me as a child at nonna’s home: in the center (white shirt, looking into the camera) and on the table (on the right, with a 70s patchwork skirt)
More of my extended family around nonna’s table:
This is me as a child (on the window sill), and later on, with nonna Amelia (in her living room – she had an amazing green thumb):
|Il ragù della domenica||
- 1.5 lb. pork spareribs cut into individual ribs
- 2 lbs. sliced pork loin
- 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm water, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts, chopped coarsely
- 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
- optional: 1/3 cup capers, 1 Tbsp. grated breadcrumbs, 3.5 oz. prosciutto crudo minced)
- 5-8 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
- 2 carrots, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large onions, chopped fine
- 2 Tbsp raisins
- 1 cup white wine
- 4.5 lbs. tomatoes, passed through a food mill (or used canned)
- 2 cloves (or a pinch of cinnamon)
- salt and pepper
- Make the braciole: Flatten the pork loin sliced with a meat pounder (between plastic wrap). Mix the filling: raisins, pine-nuts, parsley (plus optionals). Spoon into meat slices, roll up and secure with kitchen twice or toothpicks. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. Brown the meat (both the “braciole” – rolled up meat- and the spareribs or either/or depending on what you choose) on all sides. Add carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and raisins. When they are translucent (after about 10 minutes) add the wine and when it evaporates, add the tomato, and cloves (or cinnamon). Allow to cook slowly covered on low for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, towards the end.
- Use this to season large size pasta: ziti, penne, candele, paccheri. Serve sprinkled with plenty of fresh grated Parmigiano (Parmesan cheese).
Ragu’ requires heart, soul, a family waiting around it, and religious slow cooking for at least two hours, until it becomes thick and glazed: a deep, dark red color. It’s a layered yet incredibly simple-at-its-core sauce…like family. There were two version or ragu’: one made with costolette di maiale (or as called them “tracchioline“), which are pork ribs and one made with braciole (rolled-up meat filled with raisins, pine-nuts, parsley and sometimes more). My personal favorite (and fortunately for me less time consuming, so it’s the one that I make more often) is the first kind. I have combined both version below…so you can choose which one you prefer, or combine.