* This Pasta Sauce page is dedicated to my Dad, who always wanted to know how to make his Mother-In-Law's sauce and to my Grandmother who taught me how to pour a lot of love into the cooking!
Put enough olive oil in the pot to just barely cover the bottom. You want to have enough oil where the garlic can soak a little bit.
Note: Make sure you have started the "background Italian music", it will help get you in the mood for Cooking Like Grandma.
Chop up (3) Large cloves of garlic as fine as you can. It's better to do this manually with a knife and your fingers in lieu of using a garlic chopper or garlic press. This way, you will have that nice Italian Grandmother smell. If you do not have an Italian Grandmother. Trust me, their fingers always smell like garlic ;)
Add the garlic to the oil. Do not heat the pan up yet, just let the garlic sit there and bathe in the olive oil for a bit, this will help get the garlic flavor into the oil. You listening? These are grandma cooking secrets... it's important stuff ;)
While the garlic is bathing in the olive oil, chop up (1) large Vedalia onion as fine as you can.
Heat the oil and garlic - medium heat. Heat until you see little bubbles around the garlic. (DO NOT OVER COOK THE GARLIC) When you see the little bubbles around the garlic add the chopped up onions and lower the heat to medium low. Be sure to do this as soon as you see the little bubbles around the edges of the garlic ~ This is Important!
Simmer at low heat, the oil, garlic and onions for about 5 minutes. While the onion, garlic and oil are simmering add 1 tsp. Oregano, 1/2 tsp. Sweet Basil, a dash of Salt and Pepper and mix well.
Spoon in (1) 6 oz. can of Tomato Paste. Fill this 6 oz. tomato paste can with water, stir it up good to get all the paste off the inside of the can and add it to the pot. Turn the heat back up to medium. Mix well until paste is liquefied and mixed well with the garlic and onions. Simmer for about 4 minutes. (Be sure to stir the sauce constantly for these 4 minutes) I call this Italian Roux. At this point you should add a touch of salt, black pepper and 1/2 tsp. of Oregano.
Add (2) 14.5 oz. cans of Diced Tomatoes and (1) 14.5 oz. can of Petite Tomatoes. Mix well and simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir every couple of minutes. While simmering add 1 tsp. Oregano (yes, again), 1/2 tsp. Sweet Basil, 1-1/2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley, just a dash of Cajun Seasoning, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder and a dash of course black pepper. Also, this is a good time to turn up the music and start drinking some red wine ;-)
Add the second 6 oz. Tomato Paste. Fill this 6 oz. tomato paste can with water, stir it up good to get all the paste off the inside of the can and add it to the pot. Mix well and heat for another 15 minutes or so. At this point you should add a little salt and pepper. The heat should be set to medium heat, the sauce should not be boiling, if boiling turn down heat just a little. Also be sure to stir sauce every minute or so, you don't want anything sticking to the bottom of the pan in this part of the sauce making process. :-) Make sure the paste is mixed in well. When you add the tomato paste at this point, it's going to clump together, get a wooden spoon and squeeze the paste up against the side of the pan to mix the paste in well with the sauce.
Add (5) 15 oz. cans of Tomato Sauce or Puree ("Hunts"). Mix well. Fill all (5) of these cans 1/2 full of water, stir it up good to get all the sauce off the inside of the cans, then add this to the sauce. Mix the sauce again. Now Add 1 tsp. Oregano (yes, again), Important note about adding oregano and sweet basil, when adding this to the sauce, pour the herbs in the palm or your hand and with your other hand rub hard to grind up the seasoning, this brings out the flavor a little more. Also add 1 tsp. fresh parsley, 1 tsp. sweet basil and 1/4 tsp. garlic powder. Mix well. Keep at medium heat and cover pan. Be sure the sauce is not at a rapid boil. A little boiling is OK but not too much. Heat should be at medium or lower. You want to keep the medium heat on the sauce while you make the Meatballs.
OK, if you have been doing the math, you should have added by now a grand total of approximately 49.5 oz. of water. Actually this does not have to be exact, can be more or less. Adding the water helps you cook the sauce longer so you can better cook the meat.
*** Don't forget to keep stirring the sauce every 3 minutes or so while you're making the Meat Balls ~ This is Important!
Add 1/3 cup red wine and mix well. This is an important step! Let simmer (almost boiling) for about 15 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
At this point in your culinary adventure you will want to drop in (1) Bay Leaf, mix this sauce well after dropping in the bay leaf. To add a little fun you may want to toss the bay leaf over your back and see if you can make it into the pot ;)
OK, you're doing great! Now wipe the sweat of your forehead and lets get those Meatballs going before the sauce burns....!
Just let the sauce simmer (not boiling) while you're preparing the meatballs. It could take you about 1/2 hour to finish the Meatballs.
*** Important Note: About 10 minutes before you put the Meatballs into the sauce you will need to add (2) Tsp's of sugar. Sprinkle this in slowly while you're stirring the sauce. Mix the sauce well after adding the sugar. ~ This is Important!
OK - just let it cook some more... Well...? Start making those Balls!
Anthony's Meatballs and Pork Chops
(an extremely important part of this recipe for overall flavor, adds a lot to the sauce, really!!!... You must make the Meatballs!! ~ This is Important!) OK, look, it's just not sauce without the meatballs, so make the meatballs.
Oh, wait..... Did I forget to tell you my Family's recipe for Braciole, you know, that steak with bread crumb type filling all rolled up and held together with toothpicks or string... The string around the meat we call Italian dental floss :-) It's excellent addition to the sauce recipe. It makes the sauce taste even better! It's a good!! ~ The Braciole recipe is towards the bottom of this page if you want to add it to the pot!
Important Note: If you are going to make the Braciole (not a requirement - but an enhancement to the sauce) this is where you would make it and add it to the sauce. You should make the Braciole before the Pork Chops and Meatballs. The meat for the Braciole needs to cook in the sauce longer than the Balls and Chops. **Very Important Note: You will want to make the Braciole and brown it in a pan as noted in the Braciole recipe toward the bottom of this page. You should also put the Braciole in the sauce right from the pan and you should place them in the sauce before you make the meatballs. This way your Braciole is cooking while you're preparing the meatballs.
OK... Back to the Chops and Balls!
Very Important Tip: When frying the Meat Balls and Pork Chops you MUST have a very good Non-Stick pan. Believe me, this helps! However, keep in mind, if you use a non-stick pan you will ruin it over time because you need very high heat on the pan to brown the meats and non-stick pans do not like high heat. What I recommend is a well seasoned iron skillet. (It's what grandma used!) The best for browning the meatballs, pork chops, sausage and Braciole! Check out this very helpful Irreplaceable Cast Iron Pans page. A lot of good tips on how to care for your cast iron skillets.
Important Note: Before you make the Meat Balls you need to add the Pork Chops to the Mix.... Remember as I said in the beginning of the recipe; "(2) Pork Chops (Average size thin with bone) This comes into the recipe when you start making the Meatballs" hey.. Here we are :-))
Pork Chops: Add a little olive oil to the pan. Take the (2) thin Pork Chops and fry them in a pan. Cook on high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, enough to sear and brown the chops on both sides. Add the chops to the sauce and stir. You want them to cook in the sauce while you're making the Meatballs. ~ Now you can move onto the Meatballs...
OK, Here is the stuff you will need for the Meatballs: (Yields approximately 12 to 14 balls. )
1 lb. Ground Chuck (80/20) - (This means with 20% fat, you want at least 20% fat. Do not use lean meat for the balls!)
1-1/2 slices of dark wheat bread with crust (Soak in water and squeeze out water)
A little less than 1/4 cup bread crumbs (Progresso Italian style)
1/4 cup fresh finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
3 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
A dash of coarse black pepper and Salt (more pepper than salt)
A couple splashes of red wine (I recommend Villa Pozzi)
1/2 tsp. sweet basil
1 to 1-1/2 cup chopped salt pork also called fatback (...not in the meatballs, just used for browning the them)
Important note about the Salt Pork! The salt pork is an extremely important part of the entire sauce and is a must when browning all the meats. When you brown your meatballs, you must fry up some salt pork first so you can have a good amount of salt pork grease in the pan to brown the meatballs in. It also makes your cast iron pan nice and slippery so the meatballs don't stick. You will use these tasty pieces of fried salt pork later on with the Braciole! You will need to use about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of chopped salt pork. You want to produce enough salt pork grease to cover the bottom of the pan. Here is the method for this deep dark Italian grandma secret!
Secret grandma tip: Be sure to chop up the salt pork into 1/2" pieces. Keep the grease in the pan and put the small fried salt pork bits on a paper towel to drain.
Note: I do not recommend making the meatballs the night before. They are best when made fresh, browned and put in the sauce immediately after browning. I've tried preparing the meatballs the night before and have not been happy with the results.
Don't forget to keep stirring the sauce every 3 minutes or so while you're making the meatballs, and make sure it's not boiling. Ideally, you want the sauce at a point where it's almost boiling. You'll have to check the temperature often. ~ This is Important!
OK, are you ready? Here we go.... making the meatball mix! Hang in there, we're almost done..
Get a big bowl and put the 1 lb. of ground chuck in it. It's very important to have 1 lb. of ground chuck and not more or less. This recipe works best with 1 lb. of ground chuck. If you want more meatballs, just double the meatballs recipe.
Chop up 1/4 cup of fresh Parsley as fine as you can. Fresh parsley is extremely important, the dried up stuff in a bottle is not parsley, it's just green stuff they find on the ground at factories. Add the parsley to the bowl. Don't mix anything yet. You're going to add all this stuff and mix when your done.
Add (1) Egg to bowl.
Chop up (2) large or (3) small cloves of garlic as fine as you possibly can and add to bowl.
Add 1/3 cup of Parmesan Cheese to the bowl.
*** Don't forget to keep stirring the sauce every 3 minutes or so while you're making the Meat Balls. ~ This is Important!
Take your (1) slice of dark wheat bread and rub it under the faucet and get it soaking wet. Then squeeze as much of the water as you can out of the bread. The bread should be a gooey consistency. What I call meatball glue, this is very important. Break the bread up into the bowl. At this point you need to also add about about 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.
Add coarse black pepper, salt, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, a splash of red wine and about 1 tsp. of sweet basil.
*** Don't forget to keep stirring the sauce every 3 minutes or so while you're making the Meat Balls. ~ This is Important!
OK, Lets get your hands dirty.
Mix all the ingredients in the bowl well. You will need to work the meat for about 3 minutes until you end up with a big relatively firm ball. You are shooting for the consistency of play dough. If the meatball mixture is still wet you might need to add just a little bit more bread crumbs, but not too much. however it's OK for the balls to be a little wet, you just don't want the meatball mixture wet to the point of being mushy. Only way I can explain it. You also don't want the meatballs too dry either. You have to make these just right. It will take practice.
VERY IMPORTANT STEP! Chop up the salt pork into 1/2" small bits and fry it up in the cast iron skillet so you get enough salt pork grease to fill the bottom of the pan. Then take your meatball mix and make 1-1/2" to 2" balls. Roll them around in your hand and try to make them as firm as possible. You might want to start out with 1-1/2" balls the first time you make them. 1-1/2" balls are easier to handle. What I mean... is they don't fall apart as easy. Also what I use is two flat wooden spoons to roll the balls around while browning. Important note: The meatballs will not be perfectly round when your done searing them, you may have some odd shape balls, but don't worry about it, you're more concerned about the taste. :-)
Get the pan very hot, heat should be on medium high to high, you will probably add a lot of smoke to your house at this point, if you are not getting a LOT of smoke from the browning meatballs, you don't have the heat high enough. I usually open the windows and put a fan in the window for this part. It can get that smoky! You want to sear the meat to a dark brown. Be careful with the balls at first, you don't want them to fall apart. They should be cooked to a point where you can roll them around the pan and have them appear to be firm.
*** Important Note: Did you put the (2) Tsp's of sugar into the sauce like you where directed just prior to making the Meatballs? If not, do it now! This is an important step.
When the meatballs appear to be seared well and firm take them right from the frying pan into the sauce. Grease is an important ingredient to the flavor of the sauce. Especially salt pork grease! (If you're worried about cholesterol and fat then don't eat Italian food. :-)
OK, Stay with me now...
Sausage!!! Did I mention the sausage yet? This is not a must, but definitely adds flavour to the sauce! If you want to add sausage to the sauce, click here for a quick video I made of the process. It will help you :-) You need to boil them, then brown them before adding to the sauce. If you choose not to add the sausage, I do recommend throwing in about 1/2 tsp. of Fennel Seeds. But really, you should add the sausage. You should add the sausage when you add the meatballs. Note: As a standard, I always make the meatballs and the sausage when making the sauce, leaving the pork chops and Braciole as options if I have the extra time.
*** Now that you have added the meats to the sauce, you will not need to stir the sauce as much ~ This is Important! *** From this point on when you stir the sauce, stir gently, remember that you now have precious meats in the sauce and you don't want to break them up when their cooking in the sauce. Be nice to the meat! When you stir from this point on, you will push a wooden spoon down the sides of the pot to the bottom then slowly stir towards the center. You don't want to just dive your spoon into the middle of the pot, you can break up the meats that way.
Now you should have your chops and the balls (and the Braciole and sausage, if you're making it) in the sauce and the heat should be at medium low, a little boiling is OK. Important Note: At this point it is important to make sure the sauce is not boiling to much, just a very low boil, a little bubbles here and there. Now let the sauce simmer with all the meats on medium or lower heat uncovered for about 30 min. Gently stirring occasionally. (You will not be covering the pot at any time during cooking).
OK, now taste the sauce... Oh that's a good!!!! Important Tip: This is where you would add more spices to your liking. Sometimes at this point, I might add a little bit more basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. But you taste it and see for yourself. It may be just right at this point in regards to taste, but your not done cooking it yet!!!
Now simmer on low-med heat for another 2 to 3 hours or so uncovered. The timing on this varies. What you want to avoid is having a watery sauce, so cook it long enough for the sauce to get thick and all the meats to get tender. The more you cook the more tender the meat gets anyway :-) Be sure to stir occasionally during this entire time, a little boiling is OK. Occasionally = every 5 - 10 minutes ~ this is REALLY important! Be sure to check for grease/oil puddles each time before you stir and remove all you can. When you get to the third hour of cooking the sauce, you must be even more careful with your stirring because now the meats will be tender.
Important note: If you are not getting puddles of grease on top of the sauce after 2 hour of simmering, you may need to have longer periods of time between stirring. Sometimes you have to let the sauce simmer for a good 15 min. or so without stirring to get some of the grease to rise to the top so you can spoon it off. This is a very important step! You should end up removing 1 to 2 cups of grease from the sauce.
Important tip: To remove the grease from the sauce you must do the following. Press a table spoon into the sauce bottom side of the spoon dipping into the sauce until the lip of the spoon just enters the grease puddle. The grease will then pour into he spoon. Then you pour that spoon full of grease into a coffee mug and take some more grease out until there is no more grease puddle. Then you carefully stir the sauce again and let it simmer some more. You will keep doing this through the entire cooking process.
The sauce is done when it is the consistency of apple sauce. Only way I can explain it. For me, the sauce is usually done when it's been cooking for about 3 hours after I have put the meats in the sauce.
That's it you're done........ Easy as Pie.
See below for the Braciole recipe if you are going to add that to the pot.
Here is another little tip, after cooking this lovely sauce for about an hour or so, I always take out one meatball and a sausage. Put it on a small plate, pour some sauce over it and sample them. YUM!!!
Tip: The sauce gets a much better flavor if you finish your sauce a couple hours before your going to eat. When you finish the sauce, just turn off the burner and let it sit on the stove covered. Let the sauce sit for about 1 to 2 hours. When you're ready to eat, just heat the sauce back up again for about 10 - 20 min. or so, just to get it hot, then serve. The sauce is also very good if you finish the sauce the night before. Put the entire pot in the fridge and then heat up the next day before your dinner. If you do this, you will want to take the pot out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour to get to room temperature and then you will have to heat it up for about 30 to 45 minutes to get the sauce warm and the meats warm for serving.
When you're ready to serve, take out the Meatballs, Pork Chops and/or Braciole and sausage and put them into a nice bowl to serve out of. Make sure you carefully remove all the string from the Braciole before serving. You will need a nice pair of sharp scissors fro this.
Also, you should put a nice large serving bowl of sauce on the table for people to add to their plate after they have scooped up everything they want on their plate. You've worked hard on the sauce and you want them to enjoy it.. :-)
Anthony's Braciole (Bra-Zshole)
Yet another important part (but not a requirement) of this recipe for overall flavor, adds a lot to the sauce.
* I only make the Braciole on very special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. My standard sauce is usually made with just the pork chops, meatballs and sausage as spelled out above.
Note: If you are going to make the Braciole along with all the other meats, I recommend adding 1 cup of water to the sauce, above and beyond the water mentioned above.
OK, Here is the stuff you will need for the Braciole:
1-1/2 lbs "Round Steak" or "London Broil" (sliced pretty thin, about 1/4")
1/4 lb. of Prosciutto or Mortadella (Sliced extremely thin, almost falling apart thin. You must stress this point to the person slicing!)
1/2 - 3/4 cup bread crumbs (preferably "Progresso")
1/2 - 3/4 fresh parsley
1/4 - 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (fresh grated recommended)
3 cloves fresh garlic
Coarse Black Pepper and Salt
Salt Pork tasty fried crunchy bits :-) (When you were frying up the salt pork pieces for the meatballs you should have put them on a paper towel to drain. You can use these tasty bits to add to the Braciole. Be sure to chop them up into smaller pieces.)
Very Important Tip: When frying the Braciole I recommend a well seasoned cast iron pan and browning the Braciole in salt pork grease similar to the meatballs. Note: I also highly recommend doing this the night before. Roll the Braciole as spelled out below, then brown in salt pork grease, then put on plate, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator to use the next day with the sauce. Then on the next day when you are making the sauce, you will fry them up in a pan again, this time just with some cooking spray in the pan, don't use the salt pork again. Brown them enough to get hot again and then drop them into the sauce before you put the meatballs in.s
When you go to your local grocery store to get the "Round Steak" or "London Broil" (they are basically the same thing) you will need to ask the butcher to slice the meat up into 1/4" thin pieces. (You will pound these out to be about 1/8" thick)
Take the meat slices and lay them out on wax paper. Now pound the heck out of them, you need a meat pounder for this part. You might want to make sure there are no babies sleeping while you do this. The pieces will end up larger when you're done pounding and you may have to cut them in half and do some trimming.
You want to have pieces that are approximately 8"x4" and relatively rectangular in shape, sometimes when they slice the meat you may get some slices that come to a point, you will have to cut those ends off, it becomes a problem when you start to roll the meat up if one edge is a lot smaller than the other. (Did that make sense to you?? When I get time I might add some pictures to help aid you through this whole sauce making process)
Anyway, now that you have your 8"x4" rectangular slices of meat sitting on your counter, staring at you, waiting for some Italian influence... You want to first add an extremely thin slice of Prosciutto or Mortadella. Just lay the slice right on top of the meat. Then chop up some fresh parsley, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup, grate some fresh Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup, and chop up 3 cloves of garlic as fine as you can.
Sprinkle on the meat, finely chopped fresh garlic (spread out the garlic with your fingers and try to press the garlic into the meat), some bread crumbs, fresh parsley and fresh Parmesan cheese, then add a dash of salt and coarse black pepper. Make sure it's evenly spread out on the meat. (I sometimes throw in a little basil as well)
OK, now you're ready to roll up the meat...
Roll up the meat as tight as you can and tie it up with some very strong nylon thread (we call this Italian dental floss). You will need about three pieces of string for each piece of Braciole. You have to be patient. This part can take a while. You want to tie it well enough to hold it all together. Make sure to leave long pieces of string hanging off the knot you make so you can find the string after cooking it. If you don't have strong thread, it will fall apart during the searing process. You can also use cooking string, (also called butchers twine) to roll up your Braciole. This is a lot easier to work with but would not fall under the category of Italian dental floss ;-)
OK, now that you have all your meat rolled up, tied up and ready to go, let's put the meat in the very hot pan. You want to brown/seer the meat and then put them in the sauce. Please be gentle stirring the sauce from this point on. You should try to get these into the sauce just prior to putting in the meatballs.
This recipe should yield approximately 5 to 8 Bracioles. Depends and the final size of your pieces of meat.
This part of the recipe will take practice. You will have to make the Braciole several times before you get it just right. You'll have to play around with the amount of ingredients to add to the meat and the size of the roll. You don't want the rolls too thick or you will have to cook you're sauce longer.
Now make your favorite Pasta and Mangiarlo tutto!!! (Eat it all)
May I suggest a nice Italian Red Wine to go with this wonderful meal? Yes? Ok, this is the best red wine I've ever had and is my absolute favorite! Villa Pozzi Nero D'Avola Sicilia Cabernet Sauvignon. A wonderful red wine from Sicily, Italy! You can get this wine and a review here.
May I suggest listening to some good Italian music while you're cooking? It really helps you get in the mood for good Italian food! I recommend: Italian Gold: Treasured Collection. My grandmother had the vinyl version of this.
Now for the perfect desert to eat after this nice meal - Ricotta Cheese Pie!!!
*** This is my family's recipe which has been passed down through generations. Special credits go to my Grandma: Anna Salerno, my Sicilian Mother in-law: Rose DeSiato and my mother: Raffaele! I've watched them all VERY closely when they made their sauce on many occasions, so this recipe is a culmination of spaghetti sauce styles from all of them and my own special minor revisions ;)
For some more helpful instructions, check out the sauce cooking and leftover tips.
(I highly recommend you read through all these recipe tips prior to tackling the pasta sauce!)
How to Make Spaghetti Sauce & Meatballs Videos - HD Quality!
Preparing The Italian Sausage Before Adding To The Pot
... and if you want to make this pasta sauce for a big party, like 30 people, I've tried to cover that with this special video series.
Pasta Sauce, Meatballs and Sausage for 30 People video series! - HD Quality!
Check out this: 4 part video series - total length: 52 minutes
(Two sauce pots at once with Meatballs, Sausage and Pork Chops!)
Pasta Sauce and Meatballs Photo Gallery
But wait... There's more!