When the cold weather starts to come in Sydney-land I get homesick for my Mum’s cooking! Giuseppina Maria Carmela Pisapia, or Josephine as she was known, was the most amazing Italian cook, who embraced food as I do. I am sure I absorbed this passion from her. My Mum’s “red gravy” is one of my favourite food memories. This dish brings me to her table on a cold autumn day to submerge my taste buds in the rich robust flavours of southern Italy.

“Tomato sauce”, to use another name, is the Mother sauce of Italy. This recipe is as I recall as done by my Mother, who gave me the desire to be a chef, to make people happy and let food do the talking for you. Some of my siblings disagree about the details of the recipe, but Giuseppina was not one who actually worked from set recipes – never wrote them down, and undoubtedly changed them from time to time to suit her. But to appease the family, let’s say this recipe is “inspired by” my Mother, and get on to the more serious business of cooking! I teach this in my Italian cooking class, which people love. It’s always a winner!

What great recipes from your Mum make you want to go home?

Giuseppina’s Red Gravy with Italian Meats

Ingredients

4 x 800 gm tin plum tomatoes
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp tomato paste
8 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Italian sausages
2-3 beef or pork ribs
300 gm pork mince
300 gm beef mince
300 gm veal mince
100 gm Parmesan, grated
8 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch curly parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Method

1.      Preheat oven to 200 C. Place ribs in the oven to brown for about 15 minutes.

2.      Crush the tomatoes and place them in a large pot over medium heat. If tomatoes have skin on them, you might want to put them through a mouli. Bring to a boil. While the sauce is coming to temperature, add the meats as they are ready.

3.      As soon as the sauce has come to a boil, turn the heat down to a low boil. Add the baking soda and let cook for 1-1½ hours.

Heat should be quite low, but check periodically to make sure the sauce is reducing.

Stir sauce every once in a while to avoid sticking.

4.      Place veal, beef and pork mince in a bowl and season with 4 cloves of chopped garlic and about 4-5 tbsp chopped parsley. Mix and season with salt and pepper and grated Parmesan.

5.      Roll meat mixture into medium-sized balls and set aside. Should makes about 8-10 meatballs.

6.      In a large sauté pan add about 4 tbsp olive oil over medium heat till hot, add sausage and brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes. Add to sauce.

7.      In the same sauté pan, over medium heat, add the rest of the olive oil till hot and then add the meatballs and brown all over, about 3-4 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook meatballs and sausage in sauce for 45 minutes – 1 hour and then remove. (Leave ribs in the sauce to slow cook.)

8.      In the same sauté pan, over medium heat, add the remaining garlic, sauté till golden. Add the tomato paste and fry gently till paste turns dark in colour. Add to sauce.

9.      After the initial cooking period, continue to cook sauce for about 2-3 hours at very low heat so it reduces and slowly cooks becoming more flavourful. If sauce becomes too thick you can always add a bit of water to thin.

10.  About 20 minutes before serving, remove rib bones (meat should have all fallen off by now), and add meatballs and sausage back into sauce to heat through.

11.  Serve sauce tossed over any rustic type pasta like penne, rigatoni, bucatini or fusilli, or over polenta.

12.  Serve meatballs and sausage on the side.

Note: Sauce, meatballs and sausage all can be frozen if necessary. Sauce will last up to one week in the fridge. Remember, the longer it cooks the better it gets, and the next day is even better.

Serves 8-10