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Aunt Kay’s Sunday Supper – Italian Style

Aunt Kay’s Sunday Supper – Italian Style

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated and Aunt Kay

When I saw a recipe in Cooks Illustrated called Italian Meat Sauce Sunday Gravy, it brought me back 30 years, sitting in my Aunt Kay’s kitchen in Philadelphia witnessing her Sunday Supper.  She would make this tomato sauce with a melange of meats simmering all day filling the house with an incredible aroma.  After patiently waiting for what seemed like days, when dinner time finally arrived, we would all gather in her small dining room, elbows touching, with a feast that could feed the entire South Philly neighborhood.  I remember all my relatives speaking Italian with gusto (and their hands), envious of this talent even to this day.  My four quarters of Italian at UCLA did not make me the conversationalist I had envisioned, however I could conjugate many verbs after those four quarters.  Sorry for the digression.. . back to dinner.  The recipe in Cooks Illustrated had all the elements of Aunt Kay’s masterpieces, however it included an important element – – instructions!!!.  I did have an old piece of paper with her scribbling spattered with tomato sauce,  but had never been able to recreate it.   I made some minor changes to the Cooks Illustrated recipe, using some of my Aunt Kay’s suggestions, and the result was incredible.   I still miss the company of those old Sunday Suppers, but I felt like Aunt Kay is with me when I was toiling over this recipe.  I only wish she was here to enjoy it with our family.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 rack of baby back ribs – cut into 2 rib sections
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 2 onions – chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves – pressed
  • 2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped


  • 2 slices hearty white bread – crusts removed and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves – pressed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground beef/veal/pork combo
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 p0und spaghetti, fettucine or linquini


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.

Pat ribs dry and season with salt and pepper. Add ribs to pot and brown on both sides – 5-7 minutes total. Transfer ribs to large plate.

After ribs are done, brown sausage on all sides – 5-7 minutes total. Transfer to plate with ribs.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion and oregano – cook, stirring occasionally until beginning to brown – about 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook and stir constantly for about 3 minutes until very dark. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant – about 30 seconds.

Add crushed tomatoes and broth, scraping any brown bits. Return ribs and sausage to pot and bring to simmer,

cover and transfer to oven and cook for 2 ½ hours.  While cooking, make meatballs.


Combine bread cubes, buttermilk, parsley, garlic, egg yolk, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in medium bowl and. . .

mash with fork until no bread chunks remain.

Add cheese and mix with hands until thoroughly combined.

Roll into 12 balls and transfer to plate and cover with plastic.  Refrigerate until read to use.

When sauce is 30 minutes from being done, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add meatballs and cook until well browned on all sides – about 5-7 minutes.

Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Remove sauce from oven and skimfat off top with large spoon.

Transfer meatballs to sauce and gently submerge in sauce.  Cover and return about 15 minutes and cook about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta and drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.  Put pasta back in pot after draining.

Transfer meatballs, ribs and sausage to serving platter and cut sausages in half. Stir basil into sauce and add salt/pepper to taste.  Toss pasta with 1 cup sauce and reserved cooking water so it lightly coats pasta.

Serve pasta with remaining sauce and meat platter.

Serves 6-8



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2 thoughts on “Aunt Kay’s Sunday Supper – Italian Style

  1. This was crazy good. It was hearty and DEEE-LICIOUS!

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