Immaculate Conception, or as we more commonly refer to it: La Madonna or, being the miscredents we are, l'Otto, (the eight).
It is a national/religious holiday here.
To me it is also a day in which I do not wake up at the crack of dawn to drag two recalcitrant kids out of bed. Schools are closed, and this is what matters!!
But in Italy it is also the beginning of the holiday season.
This year it will be a very weird holiday season.
Not an happy one.
This will be the first holiday season that we will spend it without mom, that passed in mid october, and her presence is deeply missed.
But all the kids, nieces and nephew love this time of the year, so we decided to spend lunch in perfect Federici's tradition, making the tree and the nativity scene with all the kids at my mom and dad's house, with consequent lunch.
PS, this picture is blurry on purpouse as my brother doesn't want to post pics of his kids..
Mom would have been happy.
I decided for Polenta col Sugone.
Don't look for the term on the Italian dictionary, it doesn't exist.
I made it up.
Sugone is a mean serious sugo, A loaded and quite herthy sauce, cooks forever and uses lots of fat pieces of pork. I don't use it over pasta usually, but I love it over polenta. Which it doesn't mean that can't be served over pasta, of course you CAN, you can also serve it by itself, with a side of green beans, or whatever you like, norm is that when you serve this, you have only a light side as rest of the meal.
It is a mixed thing between a Neapolitan ragù ( remember? pieces of meat, onions and tomato), a Tuscan sugo finto (soffritto and pieces of pork meat) and a stew.
At the end it is not as much a complicated thing, just a long one.
Here we don't use crock pots or slow cookers. So I guess that you can use one of those. You can change the proportion of meats, add more pork and less beef, use pork shoulder and avoid the sausages. More fat, more taste, but also more digestion time and on the long run heart attacks on the horizon... We make the Sugone once or twice a year.
Anyhow here is goes, mind you, we were 12 today at the table. Divide by 2 or 3...
1.5kg/3.3pounds lean beef muscle cut in one inch cubes
1kg/2.2pounds pork ribs, with fat (actually, the fatter, the better) cut in two, you can use pork shoulder pieces, or other parts, as you wish
6 fresh sausages (no fennel, just garlic, salt pepper)in half inch slices
3kg/6.5pounds Italian peeled tomatoes 8 I crush them with my hands
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
750 mll red wine
Extra virgin Olive oil, 2 cups
2 boxes of quick cooking polenta (enough for 15 ppl)
So here we go:
In a large pot(thank you mommy), put onions celery and carrots and the oil, turn on the heat slowly, when it starts to sizzle put in all the meats, and rise the flame.
The reason why we do not cook the veggies first is that we need to brown the meats and if we have already cooked greens in the pan, we'll end up toasting them, inevitably ending up with a bitter after taste at the end.
Add a couple of tsp of salt. Stir frequently.
The meats will juice, you have to lower the flame to a medium heat and
let it reduce, I am not going to lie, it took forever, maybe an hour, but i was feeding a crowd. Reduce the ingredients to half or a third and it will take less time. Sort of.
Once the juices have reduced, and it is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, add all the wine, raise the flame, you have to let all the wine and its alcohol evaporate. More time.
In the mean time crush all the tomatoes (like the texture that they gets when I crush them with my hands).
Once we are back at the stage in which the liquid is all evaporated, lets put all the tomatoes in the pan with everything else. Bring all up to a boil then let simmer, slowly.
Ok, not forever, just 3 hours. Until it thickens without getting too strong and dark.
Add salt and a glass of water, when it is ready and let cook for 20 minutes more so the salt will mix into everything evenly.
At this point I spoon out most of the pork fat that has liquidified on the surface, I just dump it, but some more temerary ones will use it to fry foods... This truly made 3 cups of it.
In all honesty, all the patience I put in the sauce, I don't put it in the polenta. I buy the one that will be ready in 5 minutes.
I boil water and add salt, then add the polenta flour and mix it for about 5 minutes, then add a couple of handful of parmigiano or grana and one tablespoon of butter.
I pour the polenta on a wooden tray, and I bring all on the table, the hot polenta and the sauce on another high rimmed plate.
Everyone takes the polenta and seasons it with the sauce and the meats that at this point fall from fork.
Everyone cheers and drink wine (except for the kids, of course).
And today everyone thought about mom.
Which I miss.