This blog post will not be my usual DIY how-to. This is a look into a deep, dark Nolan family secret: my mother's authentic, mob-boss style 'red gravy.'
I know the last name Nolan does not elicit a feeling of a large, loud Italian family shouting at each other from across the house. My family is all of those things except Italian. In fact we are Irish.
Long story short, my mother’s first husband was Italian and his non-English speaking grandfather literally showed her (there is, to this day, no written recipe) how to make this, so it is legit.
Courtesy of Tory Payne
Disclaimer: this is a low and slow recipe. It needs at least three hours to cook so plan ahead!
Now, don’t get scared that this recipe is hard or has too many ingredients. I was able to memorize this recipe at a small age from just watching my mother so all of you can definitely pull this off!
This recipe happens to freeze very well so I usually make it in very large batches then invite friends over or bag it and freeze it for last minute meals or when a craving ensues.
The other great thing about this recipe is it is completely customizable. You can make it vegetarian, vegan, kosher, meat-lovers, you can leave out ingredients or add some of your own.
This version of the recipe calls for pork chops on the bone, which can be a little pricey. So, if they are on sale you can buy a package and freeze it until you want to use them but the sauce is still awesome without them.
What you’ll need:
• 3-4 pork chops
• ½-1 pound ground beef
• Spicy Italian sausage (1 package of links or ½ of ground)
• 2 medium onions
• 4-5 cloves of garlic
• #3 size can of plain tomato sauce
• #3 size can of stewed tomatoes (diced or sliced is fine)
• two #3 size cans of crushed tomatoes
• 1 small can of tomato paste
• red pepper flakes
• Italian seasoning
• Smoked paprika (regular will do)
• Dried parsley
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
What you’ll do:
Get a large pot searing hot and add a little olive oil. Then, place the pork chops on the bottom of the pan in one layer (if they don’t all fit do it in two batches). Cook them for only a few minutes on each side, they have a affinity to sticking so you might have to wrestle with them but for the most part when they are nicely browned they will lift off from the bottom of the pan. Sear them on both sides then set aside on a plate to sit until needed. Leave all the drippings in the pan; this is what makes the sauce so good! If your not using the chops then skip this step.
Dice the onions and garlic. If you have a garlic press, use it. But, a fine dice for the garlic will do just fine. Also, add as much garlic as you like! This recipe is big so it can handle a lot if you can.
Turn the burner down to medium heat and add the onions and let them sweat; don’t add the garlic now, it will burn. You might need to add a little bit of olive oil depending on how much dripping are left, trust your gut on this one. Once the onions are soft and almost transparent add the ground beef and Italian sausage and brown it. If you are using sausage link for the Italian sausage cut them into ½ pieces and add them too.
Once all the meat is cooked through add the garlic and the tomato paste and let this all marry for a few minutes.
Add all the cans of tomatoes.
Let this sit for a few minutes while you clean up everything.
By Lillian Nolan
Get out all of the spices you are going to use.
Add about three tablespoons of Italian seasoning. But, more if you want. Add 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons of salt (more if needed) and 3 teaspoons of pepper (again, more if needed).
Now, I like food spicy, very spicy, so at this point I add about 1 and ½ (sometimes more) tablespoons of red pepper flakes to the sauce. This is completely up to you, you can add more, less or none at all. The important thing is taste as you go; so that you can follow the recipe in a flavor sense as it cooks.
Submerge the browned pork chops into the sauce, put the lid on and turn the burner to low. Leave the sauce alone, other than the occasional stir, for a few hours.
The biggest mistake you can make here is turning the burner on too high and scorching the bottom. If this happens, do not scrape the bottom of thepan while the salvageable sauce is still in it. Transfer the good sauce into a new pot and reapply to the heat.
As long as everything is heated through you can eat this sauce right away, but leaving it develop in flavor is well worth it.
A good tell tale sign that the sauce is ready is that the bones of the pork chops have separated from the meat. You will need to fish these out; it is not as hard as you think. Use tongs to find them and also break apart any overly large pieces of pork you find.
When you are ready to eat boil some pasta.
You will want to use hearty pasta like penne, delicate pasta like angel hair will not hold up to this sauce.
This recipe can also be cut in half, thirds, or doubled so make as much as you need!
Add some sauce to the pasta and toss. Serve with Caesar salad, bread and a bowl of extra sauce for people to pour over their own serving. Bag the leftovers and freeze them. When you want to serve it again submerge sealed bag in warm water until defrosted or run warm water or the bag in the sink. Pour into a pot and heat through on medium heat.
Good luck doing it yourself!
By Lilly Nolan