This is probably my all-time favourite meal. I started making Sunday Sauce about 4 years ago as a New Year’s Eve tradition. The original recipe is from my number one guitar hero, Dean Ween (or Mickey Melchiando as his mama calls him.) Since I only make it once a year, the 364 days prior are filled with anticipation and salivation.
Truth be told, I probably shouldn’t even be sharing this recipe. To quote Mickey, “I have really mixed feelings about posting this because there’s an unspoken code in my family regarding recipes. Basically, you never tell anyone the whole truth when it comes to cooking because the best meals are improvised and you couldn’t tell it on paper anyway.“
But the way I see it, and I apologize in advance if I offend anyone, most folks are either too lazy or too culinarily-challenged to even attempt this recipe. To quote Mickey again, “Basically, if you don’t know what good food tastes like, you will be throwing darts when you try and cook.” For starters, there’s an ingredient list as long as your arm, second, the prep time takes almost as long as the cooking time, and third, you have to mix 5+lbs of meat and raw egg and other stuff with your own bare hands. The quantity of meat alone is enough to make my veggie-vegan friends run for the hills.
As it were, another year has come and gone and once again it’s time to make the Sunday Sauce. I usually serve this with a mixed greens salad, assorted olives, and warm Italian bread. This year I’m gonna church it up a bit with fresh, homemade Italian bread and blueberry gelato. This year I’m only making enough to feed me and T, and have a meal or 2 for left overs. The recipe that follows makes enough to feed a small army, so be sure to invite all of your friends, and your friends-friends. It’s deliciously filling (to sop up all of the celebratory alcohol), and a great meal to have in your belly when the new year begins.
So, grab a couple of bottles of wine, put on some Ween, and lets begin.
(you might want to get a pen and paper for this)
-4-5 lbs ground beef (I buy a chuck roast at Harris Teeter and have them grind it for me.)
-1-2 lbs hot pork sausage
-1 medium yellow onion, chopped
-1 medium red onion, chopped
-5-6 garlic gloves
-basil (dried or fresh, depending on availability) (approximately 2 tablespoon)
-Italian seasoning (approximately 2 tablespoons)
-5-7 slices of bread (wheat or white)
-1 – 1.5 cups Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
-extra virgin olive oil
-dry cooking wine, red or white (White: Chardonnay; Red: Pinot Noir)
-1 tablespoon sugar
-3 29oz cans tomato puree
-2 cans low sodium chicken broth
-2lbs Penne Rigate pasta
-1-2 lbs fresh, hot Italian sausage
– 3-4 bone-in pork chops
– dried hot sausage, cut into rounds (Boar’s Head brand available at HT)
In a large pot over low heat, empty 3 cans of tomato sauce. Rinse tomato cans with cans of chicken broth and add to pot. Separately dice onions and garlic. Brown 1lb of ground beef with 1/3 of hot pork sausage. Add browned beef/sausage to sauce.
Over medium heat, in olive oil, slowly sauté 1/2 of onions and 1/2 the garlic with 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and 1 tablespoon dried basil. Mickey: “I mean really slowly. If you burn the garlic right here then all is lost. Throw the whole meal away and start over. You won’t fool anyone if you burn the garlic. Burnt garlic will be the only thing anyone tastes.” When onions are translucent add to the sauce with 1 tablespoon sugar. Cover pot and leave to simmer on low heat.
The Meat Balls
Over medium heat, in olive oil, slowly sauté the other 1/2 of the onions and garlic with 1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
Soak slices of bread in milk. Mickey: “This is key. Bread crumbs are bulls–t in meatballs, this is our substitute. This is what will make your meatballs excellent.”
In a large bowl mix 4 lbs of beef, the remaining pork sausage, sautéed onions and garlic, 1/2 of pecorino romano, 1 raw egg, 1 pinch salt, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, and the milk bread (gently squeeze it out first.) Mix the all the ingredients together, with your hands (no spoons allowed), until you have big ol’ meaty mess. Don’t mix too much, we’re not making bread; just enough until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Then, roll out your meat balls. Big or small, it’ s your choice.
Once you have all of your meat balls made, brown them on all sides in olive (not vegetable) oil. If you have a wok, I recommend using it. Place your meatballs on a sheet pan and pop them in the oven on 350° for 10-15 minutes while they finish cooking. Remove meatballs from oven and gently add them to the sauce pot.
Cook your Italian sausage and add it to the sauce pot as well. If you’ve chosen to add pork chops, now’s the time to brown them add them to the sauce. The meat will fall off the bone as the sauce simmers. Cut up the dried sausage and add it to the pot too.
Deglazing the pan
Now you want to recover all those meaty bits stuck to your pan and put them in the sauce. Drain off a portion of oil, but leave some in the pan. Over medium heat, add 1 cup of wine from that bottle you’ve already opened. Stir and scrape the bits off the bottom of pan. Once pan is deglazed, add the “gravy” to the sauce.
Simmer sauce on low heat for about 2 hours—exact time may vary. As the sauce simmers, quite a bit of oil will rise to the top. I suggest skimming off most of it and stirring the remaining oil back into the sauce.
When you’re ready for dinner, cook pasta al dente, drain and spoon onto plate with the sauce. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano, open that other bottle of wine (if you haven’t already) and serve.
-2 loaves fresh Italian bread
-assorted fresh olives
Photo Credit: T-Bone and his faux-macro lense.
-light vinaigrette dressing (rice wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and a dash of Italian seasoning)
-grated pecorino romano
Blueberry Gelato (same recipe as Raspberry Gelato, but replace raspberries with blueberries, or frozen fruit of your choice. I’ll warn you in advance, the skin from the blueberries gives the gelato a grainy texture. The flavour in my opinion however outweighs the slight textural weirdness. )
If you’d like to read Mickey’s original recipe, click here.