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Italian Gravy

Serves 10 to 12 generously
Yield: 15 to 18 medium-size meatballs or 40 to 45 tiny meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 pounds meatballs (recipe below)
4 or 5 lean pork chops
1 pound lean spareribs
1 pound piece beef or pork
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of dried basil, red pepper flakes, oregano and mint
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can peeled and crushed tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can water
Salt and pepper to taste

Meatballs:
1 pound ground meat ( half beef, half pork)
3 medium eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs, or enough to hold mixture together
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Fry the meats of your choice in 1/4 cup of the oil in a large heavy saucepan. When they are browned, transfer them to a platter. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the residual juices in the pan. When the oil is hot, sauté the onion, garlic and seasonings until transparent. Stir in the tomato paste and blend well. Add the tomatoes and stir until blended with the tomato paste and oil. Stir in an extra pinch of the seasonings. Add water, using the 28-ounce can from the tomatoes. (Keep adding water until the sauce remains the thickness you desire. I use a full can.) Let the sauce come to a full boil and add salt and pepper to taste and an additional pinch of herbs. Return the meat to the pan. Then simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or until all of the meat is fully cooked. Stir gently every 15 minutes or so, using a large wooden spoon.

Serve the sauce over pasta, reserving some additional sauce for individual servings at the table.

NOTE: Pork added to the gravy will make an oily - though delicious - gravy. When you are using a significant amount of pork, skim the excess oils off the top of the sauce. Pork also tends to produce a thin sauce, so go easy when adding additional water, or add an extra can of paste at the beginning of preparations. This will help maintain the body of the sauce.

Meatballs: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently with your hands until the meat has become thoroughly blended with all the seasonings. The mixture should be fairly moist. To form the meatballs, wet your hands in a small bowl of lukewarm water and then pick up about 1/3 cup meatball mixture. Roll it in the palm of your hands to form a smooth ball about 1-inch in diameter. Drop the meatballs directly into your sauce. Or, if you prefer a crusty meatball, fry in approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Then drop them into gently boiling tomato sauce. Meatballs take 20 minutes to cook well. Remember to scrape the bottom of the skillet and pour any crusty meat particles into the meat sauce.

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