The World Famous “Sunday Sauce”

As any of my readers know, I love Italian food and I am particularly partial to the real Italian comfort food which has been practiced in kitchens with the loving hands of the nonna’s or Italian grandmothers.
 
Sunday is a special day when the family comes together for a big meal and while each family has their own traditions of which dishes are served. In the US, the tradition of the Sunday Sauce is essential.
 

While this is a marinara base, the key is the slowly braised meats which flavor the sauce and then impart a flavor to the sauce that is beyond delicious. You can also add braciole, lamb necks and/or veal knuckles etc, but this is optional. Bottom line, if you cook anything in a tomato sauce for 3-4 hours, it will come out great.

 
The key, as with all comfort food, is to use the best ingredients, take your time and layer the flavors. Here is what you will need.



Ingredients

Meatballs
½ lb ground Beef
½ lb ground Pork
2 Tbsp Grated Romano Cheese
2 Tbsp Breadcrumbs, I like panko breadcrumbs or plain.
1 Egg, beaten
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, this is my secret weapon for killer meatballs.
 
 
Sauce
5 Italian Sausages, sweet/hot or both, cut in half
1 or 2 Beef Short Ribs, depends on size. Try to find them around 3 to 4 inches; the larger ones do not fit in the pan well. You can also have the butcher cut them in half.
1 or 2 Pork Ribs, country style is good. Same size as above.
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed with side of knife and loosely chopped
1 cup finely diced Onion
½ finely diced Carrot
½ cup finely diced Celery
¼ cup Marsala Wine
2 32oz cans of whole San Marzano Tomatoes, puréed in a food processer
1 Tbsp Salt
Black Pepper
 
First, prepare your meatballs and by combining all ingredients. Start with the meat, then salt and cheese, work it together then add your beaten egg and gently work the mixture and lastly add your breadcrumbs 1 Tbsp at a time until it comes together. Roll into 2 inch diameter meatballs and put into the refrigerator.
 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take your beef and pork ribs and salt and pepper both sides and put onto a foil lined baking sheet or griddle, then place the prepared meatballs and sausages onto the same sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

To make your sauce, start with a large heavy duty sauce pan, which will hold the heat and give you a consistent low simmer. A cast iron Le Cruset is perfect. Larger is better, as you don’t want to crowd the meat.

 
Heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Stir frequently and make sure to add ½ of the salt and some pepper to the mixture. When it is sautéed and translucent, add your Marsala wine and cook until the wine is gone (about 3-4 minutes), then add the tomatoes and bring up to a soft boil.

Once the meat is finished, gently add it into the sauce, add the rest of the salt and softly simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Serve over rigatoni or fusilli with grated Romano and Parmesan cheese.

Grilled Shrimp with Tasso Ham Buerre Blanc

For all of the seafood lovers out there, here is a wonderful Creole dish. It is similar to one I had at the Commanders Palace in New Orleans years ago. This is a perfect dish for a special evening, and is remarkably easy to prepare. Once again, when working with seafood, the key is “mis en place” Everything needs to be in its place.

Find extra large shrimp and the fresher the better. This does not work well with smaller shrimp, as you lose the firm texture, which is an important part of this dish.

Ingredients


10 large shrimp peeled, deveined and slightly butterflied
¼ cup of Tasso ham, you may substitute Smithfield ham or Pancetta if need be
½ cup green onion, finely chopped
1 cup of heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper
 
In a sauté pan, render the Tasso ham down in the butter and then add the green onion. Once done, add the heavy cream, cayenne and salt and pepper. Reduce sauce by half and while reducing the sauce, you should grill or broil the shrimp.
 
Skewer the shrimp onto bamboo or metal skewers. If you have easy access to a grill, then preheat it and brush the shrimp with a little melted butter. If you cannot grill them, you can do them under the broiler, but don’t bother with the skewers.
 
When the shrimp curl and turn pink, they\’re done. Do not overcook. Remove from skewer and toss into the sauce pan for a quick sauté (you are just coating them), then arrange on plate and spoon sauce over and serve immediately.  This is perfect served on a bed of Cheese Grits. 

Pancakes, pancakes pancakes!

I love pancakes. I think they are one of the best comfort foods around. However, what passes for pancakes around most tables is just sad. I have always said, why not make your own and people look at me like I’m crazy. For some reason, people think pancakes are hard to make, but that’s just not so.

Here is a recipe from one of my Southern moms and I can promise you if you whip up a batch of these on a Sunday morning with butter and maple syrup, you will be a hit. They are to die for, and this recipe makes a lot of pancakes. By the way, this makes good waffles too.

2 cups of AP Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
21/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
21/2 Tbsp Sugar
2 large Eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 Tbsp Butter, melted
2 cups of Buttermilk

Combine all of your dry ingredients and mix them with a whisk. Then gently add the remaining ingredients and just mix until it is blended. Do not over mix, or they will be tough.
Use a ladle and add about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of batter to a lightly greased preheated pan on medium high heat. When you see air bubbles on the side facing up and the edges look golden brown, then flip it and cook for another minute or so. You don’t need to flip again. Serve while hot with butter and maple syrup which has been slight warmed.

Norfolk Style Seafood

This is such a good recipe and so simple to make. The story behind this recipe is interesting. When I was a young boy, we used to go to a seafood restaurant in Washington DC called O’Donnell’s. They had wonderful food, and most importantly, they had Buck.

Buck was a gentle giant at 6′ 2″ and was always talking to me about his recipe. He had invented this style of cooking seafood and had even developed special pans which could be used over open flame and then it could be delivered to the tables still sizzling. He was rightfully very proud of this. 

After being there quite a few times, Buck shared his recipe with me and told me to keep it a secret. Since this was over 40 years ago, I guess I can reveal it now. 

Ingredients

1/2 lb Shrimp, Jumbo Lump Crab or Langoustines, raw and shelled

2 Tbsp Butter
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
Dash of Old Bay Seasoning
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Few dashes of Tabasco
Splash of White Wine
Salt and Black Pepper


Heat your pan until fairly hot, then add butter and garlic and keep stirring so the garlic does not brown and turn bitter. Add your seafood and continue stirring, then add all remaining ingredients and cook until the seafood is done. 

You will want to have all ingredients handy, as you need to work quickly. If it’s shrimp, they are done when they curl and turn pink and if it’s langoustines or crab, they just need to be heated through. It’s 2-3 minutes max. 

Then remove the seafood with a slotted spoon and set aside in your serving plates and then reduce the sauce down by half and pour over the seafood and serve.  You will love it and Buck would be proud.