…and other secret Italian Cooking Tips for Grandma’s Pasta Sauce!
I get a lot of questions about pasta coming and what to do with the leftovers. So I have created a separate page here to try and answer all those questions. This will be a page in progress. I will slowly be adding a lot of information on this page.. 🙂 Please feel free to submit any tips or idea you may have about pasta cooking and or leftovers.
Cooking the pasta
- When you get ready to cook the pasta (whatever your favorite pasta is, I prefer Penne) – make sure you add some salt to the water prior to boiling. Do not add oil, this is a common practice, but it makes the pasta slippery and the sauce has a hard time sticking to the pasta when serving. After you put the pasta in the boiling water make sure you stir the pasta or else it will stick together.
- When the pasta is done. (Usually takes about 10 minutes) be sure to drain the pasta as well as you can, don’t run cold water over the pasta, just drain out the pasta water in a strainer and then straight into a pan as follows: Before you strain the pasta, save some of the starchy pasta water that the pasta was cooking in, about 2 tbsp. worth. Heat up a separate pan, add the starchy pasta water to the pan. Then add about three large serving spoons full of sauce to the pan. Also add about 1 tablespoon of butter. Then add the pasta, mix on medium heat for about 3 minutes or so. This will help the sauce infuse with the pasta. Then add to a nice large serving bowl, put on table and serve. Make sure you have everything ready for the meal. The pasta should be the last thing you are cooking. One you place the pasta from the warm pan to the serving bowl, you should serve right away! Here is a nice bowl of Penne pasta with some meatballs and sausage. The pasta was prepared as described above. So good!
- It’s important to encourage your guests to add more sauce to the pasta once they have placed some pasta on their plate. You have worked all day to make an amazing pasta sauce, you want to see people actually enjoying the sauce. I like to think that past is something you have with your sauce! I made a video to emphasize his point. See the video just below these pasta tips.
- It is mandatory that you have garlic bread with this meal!
- This recipe makes a lot of sauce. About enough for 8 – 10 people with maybe a little left over, of course this all depends on the the appetite of your guests 😉 If there is any leftover please note that there is some mysterious thing about spaghetti sauce, it seems to get a lot better after it has been frozen. It make great leftovers!
- It is extremely important to have a nice sauce pot with a heavy duty thick bottom. Stainless steel, not aluminum! I suggest something like this pot here: Farberware Classic Series 12-Quart Stainless-Steel Stockpot with Lid. Note: I never use the lid.
I highly recommend this excellent article for some great pasta tips! – Six Pasta Rules by The Italian Dish
Ok, before we leave the subject of pasta, this is an important video I made about adding sauce to the pasta. One of my pet peeves. You work all day long to produce a wonderful pot of spaghetti sauce like your grandma used to make. You poured a lot of love into the sauce. Then one of your guests put some pasta on their plate and ads no sauce! Oh the horror! Please watch this and take note!
The correct way to put the sauce on the pasta!
What to do with those leftovers!
One thing I get asked a lot is how to freeze the Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs leftovers. What I normally do is make a large pot that is always too much for the group I am serving so I often have many leftovers. I like to freeze my sauce in small one or two serving containers with one large family size container. I usually put enough sauce for two people in a small container with two meatballs in each container and then I will have one large container to thaw out for the family. It’s nice to have the small containers ready to go when it’s just me or the wife and I and not the whole family. Here is a photo of how I have prepared my leftover spaghetti sauce and meatballs. This is just prior to putting them into the freezer: (notice the horrible electric stove.. We have finally replaced that horrible thing with a wonderful gas range. So much better!) Note: You should also add a date on your container labeling. I took the photo before I added the date.
What I do to thaw the Sauce and Meatballs after they have been frozen for a while just take out a container and defrost in microwave at defrost setting for meat. Halfway through I try to break it up a bit with a knife being careful not to break up the meatballs. After it’s almost thawed out, I put it all in a small sauce pan and finish thawing out in the pan on low heat. Then serve. Quite yummy every time! There is this mysterious thing about Spaghetti Sauce, it’s better as leftovers! Well, hope this helps. Happy cooking, happy times and share the LOVE!
Doubling the Sauce Recipe!
I get asked this one a lot too. What I have done that seems to work best is I do the whole deal double but in two separate pots and then I have a really large pot that I combine both batches into after both of the smaller pot are done. You may have to have a friend bring a pot or two to make this work. You can also just get a large pot and double everything but it does not come out as well. Proportionately with the meat and sauce and size of pot it just works out better making the recipe exactly as I have it called out and do that twice separately in two separate pots, that goes the same for the meat as well. you make the exact recipe twice at the same time, hope that makes since. Note: You can double the meatballs recipe and cook that with the one small pot which would give you 4 times the meatballs :-), if you do this though I recommend adding another can of tomato sauce and a bit more water). If you go the route of combining the two pots into a large pot, which is nice presentation by the way because you have a very large pot of sauce on the stove looking just wonderful, be careful with the meat. What I do is after both pots of sauce complete with meat are finished; I get the large pot ready, scoop in some sauce, and then scoop out the meat from both pots with a ladle and gently place them into the large sauce while scooping in more sauce along the way. When you have all the meat transferred into the large pot, then you can just pour what’s left from the small pots into the large pots. Then I cook the large pot on low heat for a while. Gently mixing along the way, gotta respect the balls, you don’t want them falling apart. About 15 – 20 minute on low heat and some stirring will allow for both the pots to mix well into one nice lovely large pot of grandma’s sauce ready to go! 🙂 This scenario would give you enough for about 20 to 30 people.
I made the sauce again for 30 people, this time just with Meatballs and Italian Sausage. I finally took the time to film the entire process! I now have a 4 part video series – total length: 52 minutes! I cover a lot of details! In this video series I explain all the steps you will need for the Sunday Sauce for approximately 30 people! Everything you will need to get the pasta sauce with all the meats using two pots of sauce at once! The process of preparing the Italian sausage and the process of making the meatballs are explained. This 4 part video series covers what I do when I make two pots of the Sunday Sauce with all the meats that will serve about 30 people. I explain how I make Garlic Bread in this video series as well.
Anthony’s Pasta Sauce, Meatballs and Sausage for 30 People (Parts 1 – 4!)
A great question from a recent visitor that I get a lot…
(Can I make the sauce the night before?)
I am having a Birthday Party for my husband this coming Saturday for approximately 14 people. I would love to make the sauce on Friday and refrigerate it to use on Saturday. I am cooking all of the meats mentioned (meatballs, pork chops, sausage and braciole). Can I cook the sauce on Friday to serve on Saturday without harming the taste?If so, do I keep all the meat in the sauce?? Thanks so much for your help and this recipe. I can not wait to make it!
OK, so to save a lot of time, I’m just going to place my response to Lisa right here because I get this question a lot and in the process of answering Lisa I shared some important information about serving the meal like grandma did, that I have not added to this site anywhere! So this seems like a go place to put it;
“Oh yes, you can definitely make the sauce the night before. Actually, I have often done this and depending on the time (usually finish late at night), I sometimes leave the sauce pot, meat and all on the stove over night to cool off. Of course with the burner off. I have found myself making sauce until about 11:00 pm at night (or later). turn off burn, give it one last stir and cover the pot, let it sit over night and in the morning it’s still warm! Then early in the morning I will put the pot in the fridge. Then about 2 hour prior to having the guests over I take the pot out of the fridge and start heating everything back up. The only downfall to this method is that you it takes a long to to get the meat warmed up again and you do not want to burn the sauce in the process. You will probably have to add a little water with the reheating so the sauce does not get too thick and you should reheat at a very low temperature, you “DO NOT” want to burn the sauce! You also want to be very careful with your stirring so as to not have your braciole fall apart in the sauce. If you used cooking string for the braciole and tied them up good you should be OK. The last 15 minutes or so you may want to crank up the heat to make sure the meat is warm. You just might have to sample a meatball to make sure the meat is warm enough… oh darn! 😉
Then, when I am ready to serve, I carefully take all the meat out and put them on platters. Important note: not bowls, but platters. Large flat plates are best for serving the meat. If you use bowl your guests can tear apart the meatballs and braciole as they fish around in the bowl trying to get the meat. I like to have a couple large platters and have some tongs for serving so your guests can just pick out the meat they want. I also like to have about 3 gravy servers full of sauce. I like to have a nice fresh block of Parmesan with a hand grater. I also make one huge bowl of spaghetti, drain the pasta well and add to bowl and immediately mix in a bunch of sauce so the pasta does not stick. Then the head of the house serves the pasta onto the everyone’s plate. They just keep passing plates and you fill them up with pasta. Then you make sure they get meat and add a lot of sauce and fresh parm on top of everything. Then repeat as necessary 😉 There, I just explain my family secrets. Guess I need to add that to the site.”
Another great question from a recent visitor…
(When do I add the Italian Sausage to the sauce?)
I am getting ready to try your pasta sauce for the first time. I have a friend that indicates it is the best he has ever had. I have read the recipe/instructions several times to familiarize myself to make it a bit easier the first time. I see a call out for 1 lb of Italian sausage. However as many times as I have read the recipe/instructions I do not see where to add it in. Am I overlooking something? ~ Dave
Great! Glad your are going to tackle the sauce! You will be glad you did trust me and grandma would be very proud of you for attempting to cook sauce the correct way 🙂 After carefully looking through the recipe again, I do see I was a little vague on this point. Here it is in detail.
You add the Italian sausage to the sauce about the same time you put the meatballs in. Actually I usually cook the sausage the same time I am browning the meatballs. It takes a while for all the water to boil down in the sausage pan so the meatballs usually go in first and then I brown the sausage after the water has evaporated from the sausage pan and then add them into the sauce. So the sausages go in shortly after the meatballs go in. After reading through, I guess I might have to be more clear as to when the meatballs are going in as well. I think that is in there. Will have to read through carefully. After you have gone through the whole process of making the Italian Rue, adding all the diced tomatoes, spices and canned sauce and wine and sugar and have been stirring, that is when I start making the meatballs. So the meatballs can take a good 45 min. to make with making the meatball mix, forming the balls and browning the balls. So the initial sauce mixture is cooking for about 45 min. or so before the meatballs go in the sauce and then shortly after the the sausages.
Important note if you are going to make the sauce with ALL the meats!
One secret I don’t mention in the main recipe. If you are going to make the sauce with all the meats. i.e. ground meat for a meat sauce, pork chops, meatballs sausage and braciole or even all the meats mentioned without the braciole or variation of these meats mentioned. I usually add just a bit more water and an extra couple of cans of sauce. You need a little bit more sauce to have room for all that yummy meat to simmer. The amount you add should go up equal to the amount of meat you add.
Important note about the Braciole: If you are going to make the sauce with Braciole then you are going to want to have the sauce simmering for at least 3-1/2 hours up to 4 hours. This is only required when you are making the Braciole. So when making the sauce with he Braciole you will need to add a couple extra small cans of water so the sauce can cook longer without getting to thick.
One more very important deep dark grandma secret about making the sauce with “all” the meats. You want to have some moments in the sauce cooking time where you are not stirring. You will have the heat turned down very low to simmer the sauce so the meat can have time to cook. You want to do this so you give the grease in the sauce time to rise to the top of the pot in little pools of grease. You will see this happening after about 10 – 15 minutes of simmering without stirring. When you see the pools of grease you need to remove the grease with a spoon. Dipping the bottom of the spoon slowly into the sauce and letting just the grease fill the spoon. Then dump the grease into a coffee cup and do it some more. You will do this several times throughout the cooking process. Right after you have removes as much grease as you can, stir the sauce again, but stir carefully, you have a lot of meat in there you do not want to fall apart. Then let it sit and simmer again for a while until you see more grease pools. Remove grease, stir the sauce again, etc…
Extra tips on cooking the sauce
- Important tip from a site visitor: “Do NOT wear a white shirt while making this recipe”.
- Cook with gas heat if at all possible. Electric heat is “horrible” for cooking. There is a lot less heat control with electric heat. Also, be very careful when cooking on an electric stove with your sauce. I have burnt my sauce for a very important get together and was very bummed about it. Whatever temperature your used to using on gas heat is actually a lot lower on electric heat. Electric heat is a much hotter harsher heat. So for example, what I have learned is that if I usually simmer my sauce on a gas stove at a temperature setting of say, medium hi, that equates to about medium or lower on an electric stove. We just bought a new home and it has an electric stove. My first priority is to get a propane tank and replace that horrible electric stove with a nice gas one.
- Do not wear a shirt that you love, or at least do not do this without wearing and apron. The grease splatter from frying the meats will ruin your shirt. rust me, I have ruined many!
How to make the sauce with fresh Tomatoes?
I get this question a lot, so I felt this a good place to answer it 🙂 Personally I have not had good luck making my grandma’s sauce with fresh tomatoes. It’s hard work using fresh tomatoes, but if you do it right it can be very good. The seeds are the problem. To many seeds can make your sauce bitter. There is a technique to preparing the fresh tomatoes to be used for the sauce, do that and then you can make my sauce the same way. All you have to do is use the fresh tomatoes in lieu of the canned diced tomatoes. However, I would still used the canned tomato puree. I recommend this website here for learning this technique: How to make and can homemade spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes AND meat – easy and illustrated! This site also shows you how to can the sauce as well. Pretty useful, although I have never canned my sauce. I just put it in Tupperware like I describe above.
Important note about making the sauce from fresh Tomatoes:
This is a video I recently finished making showing all the steps i take to can my garden tomatoes. I use the canned tomatoes to make the pasta sauce later on in the fall. Great to have some fresh canned tomatoes to work with when you make the sauce! Check it out! How to Can Tomatoes (Preserve Garden Fresh Tomatoes)
Note: You will also find a lot of recipe secrets and tips in the sauce talk section of my site located here: