Make Ahead

Angie Lucente's Ragu

December 30, 2013
2 Ratings
  • Makes 8 quarts of sauce
Author Notes

This is a very hearty meat sauce, with pork, sausage and meatballs throughout. The sauce harkens back to leaner times, when pork ribs were the cheapest meat available. The pork is simmered in the tomato sauce over many hours; as it breaks apart, flecks of pork remain throughout the sauce. Meatballs and Italian sausage are added raw and cooked in the sauce for several more hours-- enhancing the flavor of the sauce and spreading the meat out to serve dozens of hungry people at a time.
Angie Lucente was my husband's grandmother. She was famous for her extreme intelligence and her fantastic home cooking. Her father, Salvatore, shocked his family when he married an Egyptian immigrant. They were shunned, so Salvatore and his wife moved to the New World to be together. A skilled brick layer, Salvatore found employment immediately, building new roads that were damaged by the Great Dayton Flood of 1913. Angie modified Salvatore's sauce recipe, improving and modifying it to meet the needs of her growing family. When Angie passed away in 2008, her recipe books, baking pans, and varying appliances were given to me. —Hilarybee

What You'll Need
  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound Ground Meatloaf Mix
  • 2/3 cup Fresh Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Fennel Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Room Temperature Water
  • The Sauce
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage in casing
  • 1 1/2 pounds Country Ribs or Pork Chops
  • 1 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 84 ounces Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes, (3 large cans)
  • 18 ounces Tomato Paste (3 small cans)
  • 32 ounces Water
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Fennel Seed
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  1. Assemble the meatballs. Combine the ground meatloaf mix, the breadcrumbs, spices, garlic and chopped herbs in a medium bowl. Break apart any chunks with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs to the bowl, and mix them in with your hands. The mixture will be very firm, so drizzle in the water to soften up the mixture. This mix will make about 24 small meatballs or 12 enormous meatballs. Put the meatballs in a large tupperware or other vessel and store them in the fridge.
  2. Next, dice the raw sausage. Put the slices in a container and refrigerate them.
  3. Heat the largest stock pot you own on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork chops. Allow the chops to brown on one side, about 4-6 minutes. Flip the chops and add the diced onion. Saute the onion until soft. Add the cans of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, the water, garlic, all the spices, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 2-2 1/2 hours, until the pork is very tender.
  4. The pork should be pulling off the bones. Using tongs, remove the pork and the bones. Place the pork in a bowl and throw away all bones and grizzle. Using two forks, shred the meat. Add it back to the sauce.
  5. Increase heat to medium. Add the meatballs and the chopped sausage. Cover the pot and allow it to simmer a minimum of 1.5 hours. 2 hours is better.
  6. You can serve this sauce over thick spaghetti as Angie did. I prefer rigatoni and a generous amount of Pecorino to top. Mangia!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hilarybee
  • JohnL
Dedicated locavore. I spend my weekends on the back roads (often lost!) looking for the best ingredients Ohio has to offer. I am often accompanied by my husband, Mr. Radar and our dog, Buddy. Born in West Virginia, raised in Michigan, I moved to Ohio for college and have lived there on and off since. I love to meet farmers and local producers. Cooking is an extension of this love. You can follow my move from government analyst to cottage industrialist and view the food I cook for my personal mad scientist on

2 Reviews

JohnL June 24, 2014
This sounds heavenly. I can see it would make a big batch, but does it really make 3 gallons? The only thing keeping me from making this is not having anywhere to store it. I'lll have to find a friend to go half & half with me.
Hilarybee November 10, 2014
Yes, JohnL it makes close to two and half fluid gallons-- it really depends on how long you let it reduce. I make two batches a year; it freezes splendidly.