When I first started Red Sauce Fridays, I got responses from all sorts of corners of the web, including one from my high school best friend, Eloise Parrino (now Butovich).
I basically wanted to be Eloise back in the day—she was hilarious and gorgeous, with aquamarine eyes and a smile (and mind) full of mischief. But on top of that, her house, packed with her parents, 3 siblings and a Siberian Husky named Lupa, was a den of rollicking-fun chaos. (The first time I visited, in fact, her insane sister was walking around in her bathrobe with the sash tied around her head, pretending to be Mary Jo Buttafuoco. But that’s another story for another time.)
By the time I had started high school, my only sister had been off to college for 2 years, so my own home was pretty quiet. At Eloise’s, it was always a party, and her mom, a brilliant cook from Sicily, always had something knock-down delicious going on the stove. There was no calorie-counting here, or experimenting with other cuisines. Here, we ate Italian, full stop. Because what else would you eat?
So it is with great pleasure that I share one of their recipes, which surprised me in how different it was from my own family’s. We, like many Italian-Americans, compensate for meh American tomatoes by cooking big batches of loose sauce for hours until it reduces and concentrates. Eloise’s mom’s sauce, by contrast, starts out concentrated—she uses only tomato paste!—and cooks back up with some water, simmering until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. At first it struck me as almost a French braise, but then I saw that it was basically the reverse technique of sauces that I’m used to—and yes, in essence, it is a braise.
In any case, we had it this week, and it was perfectly lovely—silky and meaty, and a pleasure to eat lamb on a weeknight. Now that my family is almost as raucous as hers (give us time… the kids are small), it really took me back.
Eloise’s braised lamb ribs (in Eloise’s words)
5-6 spare ribs (lamb ribs are the best but hard to find, you can do w/ baby back pork ribs or beef ribs, or 2-3 short ribs BUT do not use country-style ribs—too much meat not enough bone)
1/4 onion (diced small or super-thin slices)
1 carrot cut in half
2 small cans of tomato paste
Brown the ribs in heavy sauce pot with some olive oil. Then add onions and carrot and cook till onions are soft.
Add water to pot to fill half way to 3/4 (UBG here: I added just enough water to cover everything).
Add 2 small cans of tomato paste.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and stir every 15 minutes. Cook till you get to a sauce consistency you like, mine takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. If you halve the water and paste and only use 3-4 ribs it can be done in 45 min.
You can add salt to taste but I find it usually doesn’t need it (UBG here: agree!). If the paste is a little acidic you can add a pinch of sugar or a pinch of baking soda—but the carrot usually evens this issue out (UBG again: I put the carrot through the food mill to add its sweetness to the sauce. Voila).
Lamb ribs are definitely the best, the sauce is so smooth. Pork and beef make for a heavier sauce—but still good.