Pork Pasta Sauce

My childhood friends tell me I have the memory of an elephant (they have a good memory, right?). I can still recognize people on the street that I went to school with from as far back as preschool and the names of almost everyone K-12. It shouldn’t be surprising that I remember what I ate back then. This recipe is for a pasta sauce that my friend Jenny’s mom made; we’re talking maybe 5th grade. I remember that she served it with extra long spaghetti noodles that she probably bought at an Italian market (fancy back then). I can still taste the vinegary Italian salad dressing that she made from a packet that she always served with this pasta dinner. Fifteen years later, still thinking about this pasta sauce, I called Jenny’s mom and got the recipe. It was as good as I remember and I have been making it often for the last 10 years. Alan LOVES it, the kids can pick out the meat and eat it separately with their spaghetti (Autumn does not like tomato sauce). Not only is it delicious, but, the ingredients and technique are so surprisingly simple.

Equipment: Whip out the crock-pot! This sauce needs a long simmer. I  make it after lunch and let it simmer all afternoon unattended. If you do not have a crock-pot, use a large wide pan that will accommodate the making of the sauce.

Do Ahead: I always prep this after lunch and let it simmer on low until dinner. The sauce is even better the next day.

Serves: 4 (Sauce dresses 1 # pasta)


1 # Spaghetti Pasta (Barilla Plus Brand or Whole Wheat)

1 plus pound of Country Ribs, with or without bones (trimmed of excess fat), cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, or, larger than a walnut

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

1 T. dried oregano

1 t. fennel seeds (my only change to recipe)

1-6 oz. can tomato paste (preferably Muir Glen)

6 oz. water (measured from empty tomato paste can)

1-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen)-to break them up before I add them to the sauce, I run a kitchen scissors through the can a bit.

1 t. salt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Parmesan cheese rind, if you have it (another addition of mine)


1. In a deep and wide pan (not non-stick) warmed over medium-high heat with some canola oil to lightly coat, sear the pork pieces. Flip when they are getting some color. When both sides have some color, remove from pan. Either put the meat directly in the crock-pot or on a plate.

2. Lower the heat, add more oil if necessary. Add the garlic and spices. Saute them just for a moment or two, while stirring. Be mindful not the let them color or burn.

3. Add the tomato paste and water, the whole peeled tomatoes (break up any remaining large chucks), salt, peppers and the Parmesan cheese rind. Stir and bring to a boil. Once it has boiled, transfer to the crock-pot or place the pork back in the pan.

4. Let sauce simmer for 2-3 hours. I put the cover over the sauce while it is simmering, leaving a small crack for releasing some steam.

Serving Suggestions:

Ideally, you would serve this family style, which would mean a huge bowl  with the pasta (maybe some water from the pasta pot to loosen) and the sauce tossed together and Parmesan cheese on top. However, I still have to keep it separate for the kids. If you still have a toddler learning to eat spaghetti, running that kitchen scissors through the noodles makes it easier to handle. A great addition to the meal is a crisp salad with a sharp vinaigrette dressing.

This is a great sauce to serve over roasted cauliflower, which I often use to bulk up my serving of pasta.

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