Anthony’s Pasta Sauce Recipe Photos with Commentary
Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs… We call this The Sunday Gravy with all the meats! But most people just call it spaghetti sauce and meatballs. It’s really an Italian-American dish. This is a very special recipe indeed. There are many steps to making a good sauce. Mostly it requires a lot of love because it’s very hard work and can take all day to make it. But the effort is worth it for the ones you love! I have placed some step by step photos below to help you through the process. There are many important grandma tips along the way so pay attention. Detailed pasta sauce with meatballs, sausage, pork chops and braciole is located here. This page is a companion to the recipe.
Here is the base of what I start with:
- (5) 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce or puree
- (2) 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
- (2) 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
- (1) 14.5 oz. cans of petite diced tomatoes.
You will want to have about this much garlic and olive oil to start with. These two very special ingredients are the foundation of your sauce. So much flavor here! Very, Very important! 🙂
This is what the Italian Roux I was talking about in the recipe is supposed to look like 🙂 This is an important part of the sauce!
Here is the final product after all your hard labor, oh but I’m getting ahead of myself. There is so much more to show you… Note: This plate only has the meatballs. Sometimes I make the sauce with just the meatballs. Most of the time I make it with meatballs and sausage, that is my standard. If I only make it with meatballs, I add fennel seeds to the sauce to make up for he missing sausage. When you cook the sauce with Italian sausage the fennel that is in the sausage flavors the sauce. During special occasions I will make the sauce with all the meats: meatballs, sausage, pork chops and braciole.
Sometime your garlic will come with a little green sprout, this is not a bonus, this green sprout can make your sauce bitter. You will need to cut the clove of garlic in half and remove the sprout as shown above before you finely chop the garlic. This is an important grandma tip!
This is what your Braciole meat should look like. This is just the right size 🙂 You will need to contact your grocery store butcher and ask them to slice up “Round Steak” or “London Broil” into 1/4″ thick slices. I’s rare that you will find this just sitting in the cooler already sliced. This is the fun part, this is where you get to pound the meat! I like to use a nice solid metal pounder. Note:…at this point I sprinkle on some meat tenderizer 😉 ssh, don’t tell anyone.
This is what your braciole should look like after you have sprinkled on your filling as per the recipe, hmm… this is starting to look yummy!!!
Here I am tying up the Braciole. This is the Italian dental floss I was telling you about. You’ll want to tie up the Braciole in about 3 to 4 different places to hold it all together. My Braciole tying has changed over the years. I now use cooking string and tie it horizontally and vertically. I will have to get a new photo up here. Next time I make the braciole I will be sure to get that detail. Some people use tooth picks to keep the braciole together, only problem with that is you can not properly brown the meat when you use tooth picks. It’s important that you sear the meat on all surfaces to seal in the juices.
Here are the Bracoiles all tied up and ready to go!
I usually brown about 3 at a time. Be sure to add some nice ground pepper while browning. Ok, look closely, I am using 2 wooden spoons while browning, this helps me roll ’em around to make sure all is seared well. You will want to tip them up on their end to sear the ends also. Important note: I no longer use non-stick pans for browning the meats. I keep ruining those pans because of the high heat. You want a very hot pan to brown the meats. What I use now is cast iron pans. You can get those as hot as you want. I finally learned how to properly seasons the cast iron pans and now they are the only pans I will use for this.
This is what the Bracoile should look like just before you gently throw them in the sauce. Remember, if you are making meatballs, you do the Braciole first, it has to cook a lot longer than the meatballs.
Side note: If you want to have a meat sauce, then this is what you would do: while you’re starting your sauce, you would brown 1 lb. of ground chuck in a pan like this. Do not get lean meat. Get the meat that says 80/20. You want the fat/grease. Before you put in the meat add a little olive oil and fresh chopped garlic. With a flat spoon break up the meat while browning into very small pieces and add in some fresh parsley, salt, pepper, oregano and sweet basil. You want to brown this on high heat to get the meat a dark brown. Then drain out the grease and put the meat mixture into the sauce. If I make a meat sauce, I usually add this browned meat at the point in the main sauce recipe right after I have added the diced tomatoes and before I add the canned sauce. Now onto the chops.
Alright! Now it’s time for the meatballs. It’s going to get even messier now. If you look here in this photos you will see just about everything you will need to make the meatballs. Well, okay, you won’t be using the coffee creamer. Please don’t put coffee creamer in your meatballs. There is about 1 lb. of ground meat in a bowl with fresh chopped garlic and fresh chopped parsley! This is the beginning of the meatball mix. Then you add the wheat bread. What I did not show here is getting the bread wet, you can use water or milk. You soak the bread, then you squeeze it real tight, then you break it up into the mixture. The bread should almost have a glue-like consistency. Break it up into the smallest pieces you can and spread it around in the bowl.
Now you add one egg. The egg is important because it’s going to help hold the mixture together and it’s really going to get your hands messy. Part one of the meatball making process is now complete. Here you have the ground meat, fresh parsley, garlic, bread and egg. Now we have to add some spices and other yummy stuff. Oh look! A commercial for Progresso bread crumbs 😉 Hope they appreciate it. You can use any kind of bread crumbs at this point. This will help keep the meatballs firm but you don’t want them too firm. Eventually, I will come up with a recipe for “real” bread crumbs made from crusty garlic bread leftovers but that’s for another day. At this point you put in, oh, about a handful or so. Read the recipe for details.
Then you add some Parmesan cheese, this helps hold the meatballs together while cooking. There is a lot of meatball “glue” that is necessary to keep all this stuff together while browning the balls. Then add some nice seasoning, some basil, black ground pepper, some salt, and a little more fresh parsley. Here on the left is the meatball mix, almost ready for mixing into balls. On the right you see the sauce, patiently waiting for the meatballs. Have you been stirring the sauce while making these meatballs. I hope so. No??? Stop! Stir the sauce. OK, now back to the meatballs. 😉
This is a very important secret tip! Add just a touch of red wine to the mix; it adds some nice flavor. Now you are going to get messy. Don’t be afraid, just dig right in and mix all this stuff up really good. Take some time mixing everything in so it’s all evenly proportioned and Mix well.
At this point, check the consistency of the meat. If it’s still wet and not holding together nicely you will need to add a bit more bread crumbs and a touch more Parmesan cheese. Now just a little bit more fresh parsley and you’re almost ready! That’s a bigga meataballa!!! If you can make you meatball mix into one big firm meatball like this, then you are ready for it to have babies. Next you will be making a bunch of meatballs from this one big one.
Here is where you start making each meatball. See on the right there? You have to squeeze the meatballs real tight. My Uncle Johnny says, “You have to squeeze them real tight, this is important!”. Then you roll them around in your hands to get a nice ball shape. Keep rolling, this can take a while. Don’t be in a rush, good Italian food takes patience and love, lots of love!. Plus, you’re listening to that wonderful Italian music, right? When you finish rolling the meatball place it on a plate and make some more. Keep doing this until you have a plate full of meatballs ready to brown. About half way through making the meatballs you need to get a frying pan ready, preferably a non-stick frying pan. Turn up the heat and get the pan real hot. Put your burner on high! You want this pan very hot! During the meatball browning process there will be lots of grease and smoke! You will probably fill your kitchen with smoke, but the house will really start smelling good at this point 🙂
When you start browning the meatballs, you will want to have two nice wooden spoons. You will need to roll the balls around while they are browning. Don’t let the balls stay in one position for too long. Just keep on rolling them around, I call this the “Oh, so important, Meatball Dance, …roll, roll, roll the meatballs….” Come-on, sing with me! “…roll roll roll the meatballs….” Come-on, sing with me! “La La La.. roll, roll, roll the meatballs!”
Look! They are nice and brown and all the juices are sealed tight inside the meatball, now they are ready to drop into the sauce. Plop! Into the sauce they go… Now from this point on it is VERY important to keep stirring the sauce. But remember now you have precious meatballs in the sauce so stir gently! The meatballs should cook in the sauce for at least 3 hours.
Look! They are nice and brown and all the juices are sealed tight inside the meatball, now they are ready to drop into the sauce. Plop! Into the sauce they go… Now from this point on it is VERY important to keep stirring the sauce. But remember now you have precious meatballs in the sauce so stir gently! The meatballs should cook in the sauce for at least 3 hours. Well, this is it! You’ve done it! You’ve worked hard all day to make this, and here it is, a nice plate of spaghetti sauce and meatballs, yum! Yes, I know this photo is missing braciole and garlic bread, but I did not make the whole shebang when I snapped this shot. Maybe next time.