Tuesday, October 19, 2004


My uncle vacationed in Italy earlier this month, and was disappointed with the food. He felt that it was “bland” compared to the Italian food to which he is accustomed in the US.

I was not surprised by his conclusion. In fact, I think that the reasons behind it are pretty simple. My uncle is Italian-American, and he was eating in the land of Italian-Italians.

Contrary to what many in the US believe, Italian-Italians and Italian-Americans are two completely different beasts. And it's not just because members of the latter group have a propensity to scratch their crotches in public places, whereas those in the former group do not. The differences go right down to the food.

Italian-Italians like their sauces to have clean, fresh flavors. Italian-Americans like them to have intense, meaty (and especially, porky) flavors.

I've eaten in Italy many times, and I’ve never encountered a sauce laden with meatballs, pork ribs, sausage, beef hunks and bracciole (i.e., the sauce on which my uncle and I were raised in Utica, NY). Nearly every tomato-based sauce that I've had in Italy tasted almost purely of – hold onto your hats – TOMATO! Sure, you can find sauces with additional flavorings tossed in (e.g., Bolognese with its ground beef, Puttanesca with its capers and spicy peppers, etc.), but these seem to be the exceptions rather than the norm.

So it's a matter of apples and oranges. Personally, I'd be happy to eat a big bowl of either. But since not everyone is as flexible or open-minded as I am, I feel compelled to provide these folk with some sort of public service.

As such…I list below the recipe for my mother’s/grandmother’s classic, meat-based, Italian-American “macaroni sauce.” If you are Italian-American, planning a trip to Italy and fear that your palate might be repulsed by the taste of an unadorned tomato, then you should pack of tub of this sauce in dry ice and wedge it into your suitcase.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stand at a bus stop and scratch my crotch.


56 oz. Crushed Tomato
56 oz. Tomato Puree
24 oz. Tomato Paste
Salt & Pepper
Fresh Parsley (minced)
Fresh Basil (slivered or chopped)
Big handful of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese3-4 cloves of Garlic
Water (no more than 28 oz.)
Olive oil
Red wine for deglazing 
1 lbs. Italian Sausage
1 lbs. Pork “Country Ribs” (salted and peppered)
1 lbs. Beef Chuck (cut into cubes, salted and peppered)
Meatballs (see recipe below)
Bracciole (see recipe below) or, if I'm feeling lazy, a long slab of Skirt Steak (cut into pieces, salted and peppered) 
*Note:  My preference is to double this recipe.  Seriously...if you're going to trash an entire weekend making sauce, you might as well make a ton and freeze it. 
Step 1: Fry meats (each separately) in olive oil, and set aside.

Step 2: Fry garlic in the same oil in which the meats were fried. Add tomato paste and fry until darkened, but not burned (3-5 minutes on medium heat).  Deglaze with red wine.

Step 3: Add tomato puree, crushed tomato, cheese, water, meat (except meatballs) and seasonings. Simmer on lowest heat for at least six hours. Stir frequently.

Step 4: Add meatballs and cook on low heat for another couple hours. Stir frequently yet gently, so as not to disintegrate the meatballs.

Note: This will make A LOT of sauce…but it freezes well. Divide the remaining sauce and meat into plastic containers and freeze.  Also, I've simmered this sauce for as many as twelve hours.  Your goal is for the meat to be tender and nearly falling apart.

¾ lbs. Ground Beef
¾ lbs. Ground Pork
3-4 slices of Bread (soaked in water and squeezed)
1 Egg
Garlic (minced)
Fresh Parsley
Fresh Basil
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup Grated Cheese

Step 1: Mix ingredients.

Step 2: Roll into balls.

Step 3: Fry in olive oil until browned. Let cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
1-1.5 lbs. Round Steak (sliced thinly)
Fresh Parsley
Salt & Pepper
Garlic (minced and sautéed) or Garlic Powder
Grated Cheese
Kitchen Twine or Toothpicks

Step 1: Pound steak with mallet.

Step 2: Slice steak into strips (i.e., wider/longer strips for big bracciole; narrower/shorter strips for small bracciole).

Step 3: Sprinkle steak strips with salt, pepper, garlic (or garlic powder), parsley and cheese.

Step 4: Roll strips like a jelly roll, so that the seasonings are inside the roll. Tie with twine or spear with toothpicks, so that they won’t unroll.

Step 5: Fry in olive oil until browned. 

Posted by HelloAnother "Post for Posterity."


At 11:07 PM, Blogger marta said...

I think you could write a book about cooking. Or about drunks in Cabanillas or about anything else.

This is my blog, still a blank blog:

It has a name now. Thank you for your suggestions.
Now let's hope that I feel inspired and have time for writing something else one day. You know, we catalans are very boring people.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Marta:

Good idea. I'll write a book about cooking drunks. The first chapter will contain the following recipe:

Step 1: Rub Skeletor with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Place seasoned Skeletor in large cazuela with potatoes, carrots and onions.

Step 3: Roast in 210 degree oven until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

On second thought, that recipe would never work. There's not enough meat on Skeletor to feed a family of three.

Anyway, you are WRONGO about your blog address. I tried it and it doesn't work. Your address should look similar to mine. In other words, it should be http://XXXX.blogspot.com/

You need to tell us what the "XXXX" is.

And finally, Catalans are not boring. They just need to cheer up a bit. They should do what the Andalucians do. Start the morning with a Sol y Sombra.


At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Momma Mia.....that's a spicy meat-a-ball!!!

Big Momma

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After so many years right next door, I finally have the secret family recipe! :)

Nice work on your Blog, very interesting.


At 10:56 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Tim:

Great to hear from you after so many years. But as for my family's "secret" sauce...c'mon! You ate it so often, you should've figured out the recipe yourself.

Speaking of recipes, how about one for Texas BBQ?

Best regards to mom and John.


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