This was a specialty of Florence’s in the North End of Boston. The North End has traditionally been a home for Italian immigrants and is packed with great restaurants and bakeries. In addition, it is also the home of Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church. If you visit Boston, it is well worth a visit.
After I moved to the West Coast, I tried to develop Florence’s recipe, and I think this is very close to the original.
This sauce can be made thicker and more concentrated by just using one can of tomatoes. It’s your choice.
I would serve this with any rich Italian red wine. One from the south of Italy would be regionally appropriate.
1 large finely chopped Onion
5 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
½ lb. Pancetta (Italian Slab Bacon), either cut into ¼ inch cubes or ¼ inch strips
2- 28 oz. cans of crushed Tomatoes, or whole tomatoes that are lightly chopped in the processor. San Marzano’s are the best.
3 tsp. Red Pepper flakes or a few whole red chili peppers – Optional
2 Tbsp. Butter
Few grindings of fresh Nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Grated Romano and/or Parmesan Cheese
Melt the butter over medium heat, and add the pancetta. After the pancetta starts to release it’s aroma and renders down, add the onion, garlic, and cook until translucent.
Now add the nutmeg, red pepper flakes and the salt and pepper. You want to just let the mixture sauté until it smells fantastic, usually about 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat.
Then add the tomatoes, bring it back to a boil, and then reduce the heat down and let it simmer. After 1 to 2 hours, you will have an amazing rich sauce, which is perfect with any tube pasta. Florence always served it with penne, so I do the same.
Before you add the sauce, always sprinkle your grated cheese over the pasta, toss and then add the sauce and toss again, and then add more Parmesan cheese. Tossing is the key to a well-made pasta dish.