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Pasta with Italian Meat Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

This pasta recipe uses my favorite combination of meats for the sauce. Some can be eliminated and others added as desired or needed to serve more or less people. My Italian friends often added game birds or meat when they had some on hand. For me, the sausage and pork is essential and the lamb adds a wonderful flavor, as does the optional fat back. This slow-cooked sauce is usually served with a medium-sized pasta, but fettuccine or perciatelli, one of my personal favorites that is similar to bucatini, can be substituted. Any pasta that is not too small or delicate will work well.

Ingredients

Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Add olive oil and fat back. Cook very slowly, reducing heat if necessary, until some of fat has rendered and pieces are transparent, being careful not to brown. Raise heat to medium-high. Add meats to the pan in batches, seasoning each batch lightly with salt and pepper, and brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Remove excess fat from pan, leaving about 1/4 cup. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add garlic and sauté for one more minute. Return meats to pan with any accumulated juices. Add tomatoes, wine and seasonings. Reduce heat to low and partially cover pan, leaving a little space for steam to escape. Cook sauce over very low heat until meats are thoroughly done and tender, about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Adjust heat and lid position as needed so that the sauce does not become too thick.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Remove meats from sauce and place in serving bowl. Drain the pasta; add to the sauce with the fresh herbs and toss to combine. Let pasta set for about 3 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve, passing meats and grated cheese separately.

Notes: Sometimes, I add meatballs to the sauce. See the similar and related recipes links for my favorite meatballs. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled as needed. Leftover pasta or meat can be reheated in the microwave.