First, a thousand thank yous to dear Aunt Laura. That's about how many times I've called her over the years, asking if she can please please please repeat to me the recipe that I love so much. Not once have I been scolded for failing to write it down the time before. My aunt surely knows that I have dozens of scraps of paper, basically filled with the same scribbles, some stained with red sauce, others pristine as the day I last called her.
But rituals are important. And so I call.
Luigi is long gone. He was Laura's stepfather and, like my own family, he'd emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. What distinguished him from the others in our corner of Brooklyn is that he was from "the north," from Trieste, in fact, while everybody else had come from around Naples.
If not for Luigi's growing up as a Triestin, on the border of Slovenia, I would definitely not have imagined -- no way, no how -- dropping a bag of sauerkraut into a pot of red sauce.
To wit, Luigi's extraordinarily tasty and ridiculously simple recipe for pork and sauerkraut red gravy over polenta:
1. Saute olive oil and garlic in your favorite pot for making sauce. (After making this once, go ahead and play. You could add some hot pepper or pancetta, or whatever you want. I've certainly fooled around with the recipe enough myself.)
2. Get some pork butt (maybe a pound or so) and cut it into one-inch cubes. Then add them to the oil and garlic to brown.
3. Once the pork is lightly browned add a couple 28-oz. cans of tomatoes (your choice if they're whole or crushed, whatever you have around).
4. Turn up the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
5. Drain the juice off of 2 lbs. of sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in refrigerated section) and add the kraut to the sauce.
6. Lower the heat to low to medium and let simmer for 45 minutes (longer if you want; again, up to you).
7. Serve over polenta.