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Old-Fashioned Tomato and Meat Sauce for Pasta

Serves: Makes 6 servings


  • 1 to 1½ pounds meaty pork spareribs or country-style ribs
  • 1 to 1½ pounds boneless beef chuck or stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes with juices
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound rigatoni, penne rigate, or conchiglie (large shells)
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


This rich tomato sauce is excellent served with rigatoni or other sturdy dried pasta with ridges that will hold the sauce. The meat in this recipe—pork ribs and beef chuck—adds to the rich flavor. However, meatballs, Italian sausage, veal stew meat, Italian fennel sausage, or even a browned pork chop or piece of beef sirloin can be substituted. Just make sure not to use more than 3 pounds of meat, which is served on the side with the pasta.

Blot the meat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large wide pan over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meat to the oil and cook, turning with tongs, for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on all sides. As each batch is done, transfer it to a large plate.

Spoon off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until softened. Remove from the heat.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper to the pan and stir to blend.

Add the browned meats and any juices that accumulated on the plate to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, stirring and adjusting the temperature to maintain a slow simmer, for 2 to 2½ hours, until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced.

Fill a deep pot three-quarters full with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add 3 tablespoons of coarse salt to the boiling water and then gradually add the pasta. Stir until the water returns to a boil. Boil the pasta for 10 minutes. Remove a piece of pasta with the slotted spoon and test for doneness. Pasta is cooked when it is only slightly resistant to the bite. If the pasta is too hard, cook for 2 minutes more and test again. Keep testing the pasta every 2 minutes, or until it is cooked to your liking.

Set a large colander in the sink and pour the pasta and water slowly into the colander. Do not shake all of the water off the pasta.

Ladle a pool of just the sauce-no meat-in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Add half of the pasta. Top with another ladle or two of sauce, again without the meat. Top with the remaining pasta. Top with 2 more ladles of the sauce. Gently mix the pasta with the sauce until evenly coated. Reserve the remaining sauce.

Lift the meat from the sauce and either arrange it along the edges of the pasta or place it in a separate serving bowl. Pour the remaining tomato sauce into a gravy boat or a small bowl, and serve along with the pasta and meat. Pass the cheese at the table.

by Sur La Table & Andrews McMeel Publishing, Simple Comforts

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