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Christmas Pasta

We eat fish on Christmas Eve — no meat allowed. After Midnight Mass, all bets are off! We make this sauce for Christmas Day; you can't fit another meat in the pot! As many times as you reheat it, it just gets that much better, so if people are coming and going throughout the day, cook off only as much pasta as you need at the time — half a pound for every three people.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 35 min
  • Prep: 15 min
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 large servings
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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf, fresh or dried

1/4 pound pancetta, thick cut, chopped into small bits (Italian cured pork, ask at deli counter)

1/2 pound bulk hot Italian sausage

1 pound combined ground beef, pork and veal

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup good quality dry red wine

1 cup prepared beef stock, paper container or canned

2 (32-ounce) cans chunky style crushed tomatoes

A handful chopped flat leaf parsley leaves

1/4 teaspoon (a couple of pinches) allspice or cinnamon

Coarse salt and black pepper

2 pounds penne rigate, cooked to al dente

Grated Pecorino Romano, as an accompaniment

Fresh, crusty bread, for mopping


  1. Heat a deep pot over medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, bay, and pancetta bits and brown for 1 minute. Add meats and brown and crumble them for 5 minutes.
  2. Chop carrot, celery, and onions near the stove and add to the pot as you work. Cook vegetables with meat 5 minutes and add wine. Cook for 1 minute; add stock and tomatoes to the pot.
  3. Stir in parsley, allspice, or cinnamon and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes minimum before serving. Reheated sauce only improves.
  4. Toss pasta (cook off only as much pasta as you need at the time: half a pound for every 3 people) with a couple of ladles of sauce to coat, then top bowl with extra sauce. Top pasta with lots of cheese and pass bread at the table.
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