My grandma always wanted to please everyone, even if it meant creating much more work for herself. Case in point: Sunday dinner. She often made different versions of the same dish in order to appease everyone’s (sometimes picky) taste preferences. Sauce was always a point of contention. For the most part, my grandma made a simple marinara sauce that she flavored with spare ribs as it simmered away. A cousin of mine didn’t like chunks of anything in her sauce, so my grandma never served up true bolognese. I always loved her sauce just the same, even though I have a huge soft spot for a super chunky meat sauce.
Fast forward to my courtship with my Chief Culinary Consultant. At some point in those early months, I had the chance to taste his dad’s meat sauce after it had spent a Sunday afternoon simmering away on the stove. Not only had I fallen head over heels for my now-husband, but I also fell madly in love with that sauce. I’ve been enjoying it for years, and I just made it myself for the first time shortly before Christmas, and made it again a few weeks ago. My CCC walked into the kitchen as I was just getting it to a simmer and said that it smelled like his parents’ house on Sunday.
I asked my father-in-law if I could share the recipe here with all of you, and he graciously said yes.
The sauce starts out with a mixture of ground beef, ground pork and ground veal, which is sometimes labeled “meatloaf mix”; it’s browned along with onions and garlic, and basil is thrown in for flavor. A good dose of red wine is stirred in to give the sauce some body and a little oomph. Then comes the tomatoes – two large cans of crushed tomatoes, along with a large can of tomato puree.
Now, let’s talk tomatoes. My father-in-law swears by a specific brand of crushed tomatoes and tomato puree - Tuttorosso. He said he loves it because both the crushed tomatoes and tomato puree are nice and thick, which makes for a heartier sauce. This brand is primarily sold in the Eastern part of the U.S. (and it’s not always available at my own grocery store), so if you can’t find it, feel free to use your favorite or whatever is available. He did note that he has found some brands of crushed tomatoes are a little watery compared to the Tuttorosso brand, so if this happens to be the case, you might want to add a small can of tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.
If you prefer a meatless sauce, you can simply omit the meat and make the sauce as directed below. I actually did that in December when I made baked ziti for Christmas Eve, and it’s just as fabulous.
I urge you to run, not walk, into the kitchen and get a pot of this started.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk homemade pasta, and then we’re going to add some cheese and throw it all together into a masterpiece on Wednesday. Get your napkin ready!
One year ago: Gooey Butter Cake
Two years ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup and Bourbon Bread Pudding
Three years ago: Anisette Biscotti and Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie Bars
Four years ago: Secret Ingredient Brownies
Seven years ago: Homemade Soft Pretzels
The Best Meat Sauce. EVER.
Yield: About 3½ quarts of sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
My father-in-law’s legendary meat sauce recipe
½ cup olive oil
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground veal
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it is shimmering, add the ground beef, pork and veal, and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned.
2. Add the onion and garlic to the meat mixture and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the dried basil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Stir in the red wine and let simmer for about 1 minute, until mostly evaporated.
4. Reduce the heat to low and add the crushed tomatoes and tomato puree to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Reduce the heat to the lowest simmer possible, and place a lid on the pot slightly ajar. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.