20161023_144217Meaty Bones. It sounds like the user name of some 15 year old girl on an ANA/MIA website. xxmeatyxbonesxx. Or even worse; something you’ll find on Urban Dictionary. Actually the first time I’d seen those words used it was in a recipe by The Minimalist, Mark Bittman, in his “Cooks at Home” book. Pasta with Meaty Bones. The idea was to use veal shank, beef shin, oxtail, ham hock or some other literally ‘meaty bone’ to make a rich red sauce with meat, for serving with a firm pasta like penne. Garlic and black pepper were used for the basic flavor, onion being a permissible addition, and chopped parsley or basil suggested only if desired.

Upon reading that I could literally taste tender pan fried ‘meaty bone’ in my mouth. I could imagine the texture of a thick tomato sauce on my tongue. Then the crunch of a good crusty bread, warm and slightly soggy from sauce…. But I didn’t want to do, yet another, pasta and red sauce dish. Given that using, (yup going to say it again,) meaty bones would make for a totally different and more rich dish than the usual ground meat, there HAD to be another way to make something wonderful, flavorful, and textured using … you guess it… meaty bones.

20161023_143539Perhaps and open face sandwich: meaty bone red sauce, fresh spinach, and large chunks of parsley and fresh basil over a crispy french bread? But would a child (my son) eat that? The first thing I was going to need to do, without a doubt, get a nice chunk of meaty bone, brown it, and let it simmer in a tomato sauce for at least an hour.

dun dun dun dun dun dun… the theme to mission impossible…. dun dun dun dun dun dun dun…. while I go off to the store to scour for such an item…. deeda leeeeeeeeeeee, deeda leeeeeeeeeeee, deeda leeeeeeee, DUN DUN.

Operation veal shank, FAIL. They had ox tail in large packages but I didn’t want that. They had ham hocks, but that will make a totally different flavor than I’m wanting… but they did have a small package of cross-cut ribs on discount. Meat and bone and on my budget. It would have to do.

Not only did it do, it did well! I started just as he had suggested and seared the meat in a little bit of oil. I added minced garlic and onion to the pan and caramelized them in the drippings. Lastly I dumped in a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Then I waited. Even with a lid on, I needed to keep and eye on the fluid level, adding 1/4 cups here and there at a time. At 45 minutes I was sure the little rib-lets would never get tender, BUT at 1 hour 15 they were amazing!

Using toasted french bread we tried a couple of variations of an open face sandwich. We both agreed that the spinach wasn’t needed but the fresh basil was a must.

(As a side note, personally, I could totally skip the bread and eat this meat and sauce simply served over spinach for a lighter meal. But then again, I’ll eat pretty much anything over fresh spinach.)

This is an easy recipe that, just like The Minimalist prefers, uses only a few basic ingredients. It takes a little bit of time, but can be used flexibly in other creative ways and with other cuts of meat. It would definitely be great served on smaller baguette slices as an appetizer.

I wanted to make a new take on a meal with traditional red sauce and I truly believe that I was successful.


Open-Face Cross-Cut Rib Sandwiches



  • 2 pounds cross-cut ribs
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 medium onion – diced
  • 2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil
  • french bread loaf – sliced (or baguette for appetizer size)


  1. Sear each side of the ribs, over medium high, in the bottom of a large pot using a little bit of oil, as needed.
  2. Push the ribs into a pile at one side and add minced garlic and diced onion to the drippings. Saute until caramelized.
  3. Add the two whole cans of crushed tomato, salt, and pepper. Cover and let simmer for at least 1 hour; until the meat falls off the bone. Keep an eye on it’s reduction, adding 1/4 cups of water here and there, as needed.
  4. Slice a loaf of french bread (or baguette) to personal preference, and toast each slice. Add a generous layer of sauce to each slice and top with whole fresh basil leaves.
  5. Top with rib meat; bones removed.

Notes: Lightly mashing the rib meat with a fork will make it very easy to lay evenly across the basil. Also, chopping the basil may make it easier to take bites of the sandwich.

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