I have two, faithful, “leave on the stove all day” tomato sauces that both came from Saveur magazine, a Sicilian meat sauce and a Ragu a la Bolognese. But, being without my magazines, I decided to try the Joy of Cooking’s Classic Italian American Tomato Sauce I, which the book promises to be “the sauce Italian grandmothers had simmering on the stove for half a day.” The recipe intrigued me, as it called for a hunk of pork or beef to be cooked in the sauce, then shredded and used to make meatballs.

With no food processor, the shredding took considerably more effort than I would have liked, and I considered leaving the step out, not being a huge fan of meatballs personally. Still, I thought I would cook it as directed this once and was surprisingly pleased with the results.  The sauce was rich and thick, with a deep, caramelized, beefy tomato flavor, studded throughout with dense meatballs that were nothing like their ground beef predecessors. Instead of being light, crumbly and relatively flavorless, these meatballs are intensely meaty, crusty on the outside and rich.  They complete the sauce perfectly.

Best. meatballs. evar.

Classic Italian American Tomato Sauce I (Neopolitan Ragu)

from the Joy of Cooking

Brown a hunk of beef (bottom round) in a large pot over medium high heat. Add 2 cups diced onions, 4 oz chopped prosciutto and 2 minced cloves of garlic. Cook until soft. Deglaze with 1 cup of water and cook until it’s almost evaporated, about 25 minutes. Stir in two 28 oz cans whole tomatoes with juice, crushed with your fingers, 1 cup of red wine, and some basil or oregano.

Simmer until the beef is falling apart tender, about 3-4 hours. Remove the meat. At this point in the original recipe, it calls for the addition of sweet Italian sausage, which I don’t have. So… moving on…

Chop or process the hunk o’meat until finely chopped but not a paste. Mix with 2 eggs, 3/4 c breadcrumbs, 1/2 c grated Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Form 1 inch meatballs and brown them in a skillet, about 1 min per side. Add the meatballs to the sauce.