If you grew up in an Italian family like I did, chances are you had Sunday Dinner (at 1:00 PM) each week with your family. And, if you were lucky enough like I was, extended family. Each week from when I was a child until well into my 20’s, we were at my Nani’s house every Sunday for sauce (There is no Gravy vs Sauce debate-it is definitely sauce!). This tradition, though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, was something that just isn’t possible in today’s world of activities, sports, and other obligations. Sometimes I think it was better when there was no choice-you just went. There was no thought of doing anything else on a Sunday. When my Nani was sick, I spent all those hours in the hospital talking to her about her recipes. I knew only existed in her head. I wanted to be able to continue the traditional foods for our kids. While we no longer do our weekly Sunday dinners, there are still those foods that are our traditions in our family. The Sauce is my Nani’s recipe (and therefore my Mom’s too) and the meatballs are from my Aunt Pat-my Nani’s sister who is now the matriarch of our family.
While this isn’t exactly a low cal, diet recipe I have adapted it to be my own version of healthier by using organic ingredients, grass-fed/antibiotic free meats, and baking instead of frying. I think they would approve. I am so thankful for my family and the traditions we have.
This recipe is very rustic-there aren’t a lot of exact measurements (a handful IS a measurement from an Italian Aunt.) Just go with it-I promise! It is important to season the sauce at every step. It will be the only sauce recipe you need!
1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (there are about 4 sausage links per pound so add more if you need to
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
6 handfuls italian seasoned bread crumbs (2 handfuls per total pounds of meat. Here 3 lbs=6 handfuls)
3 handfuls grated parmesan cheese (1 handful per total pounds of meat)
3 eggshells of water (just do it lol).
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small can Tomato Paste
2 cans of water (use tomato paste can). Or alternatively 1 1/2 cups
2-28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes (I like San Marzano tomatoes)
1/4 cup red wine
1 carrot, grated (for sweetness instead of using sugar)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Cook the Sausage: Preheat broiler to high. Place sausage on a broiler pan and broil for about 15 minutes, turning once. They will finish cooking in the sauce
Make the Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine. all meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix on lowest setting until ingredients are just combined. Don’t over mix or your meatballs will be tough. I use my kitchen aid mixer, but if you don’t have one it is fine to use a large bowl and a mixer or even your hands.
Lightly brush a baking sheet with Extra Virgin Olive oil. Form meat mixture into meatballs and place on baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 20 minutes. You don’t want them cooked through, just browned so they hold together. They will finish cooking in the sauce.
MAKE THE SAUCE:
Heat Olive Oil in a large pot. Add onions, a little salt, and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the Tomato paste, water, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium high. Add crushed tomatoes, wine, grated carrot, and season with some more salt and pepper. Bring to a slight boil, reduce heat back to low. Partially cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add in the meatballs and sausage and cook for an additional 90 minutes(still partially covered), stirring occasionally to ensure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom.
I made Organic Rigatoni with the sauce but feel free to use your favorite pasta. Would love to hear if you make it and how you liked it!
What are your family’s traditional recipes?