“Eat the Sauce!!!”

7 Jul

My first time making sauce all by myself! (Alright, so I called my Ma like 34 times, but still.)

How could I start my blog with any other recipe but my Ma’s sauce?? (And title it with any other words than the ones that echo from our kitchen after anyone says that they’re not hungry or not full. Mama don’t play like that.) As in every Italian family, sauce is sacred. It is the symbol of your heritage, your togetherness, and of your grandmother force-feeding you a dozen ravioli when you were two. Since my brothers and I have grown up eating sauce every Sunday, leftover sauce on Monday and then lasagna, baked ziti and chicken parm smothered in whatever was left in the pot the rest of the week, there is no denying that our bodies are not made up of 60 percent sauce, not water.

My mom, who grew up making sauce with my grandma (Mama) and her Aunt Paul and Aunt Libby, always says that there is no definite recipe for sauce – it’s just a little bit of this, a little bit of that and then maybe more a little bit of this. Hers comes out different every time (sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy – but always freakin’ delicious) because besides the base ingredients of onion, garlic, tomato puree, paste and water, there are no measurements. You just have to taste it and see what it needs. As I grew up in the kitchen, making sauce with my Ma, Mama, and Aunt Libby and Aunt Paul, I was the designated taster.

I want to jump in.

Of course, you could follow my Aunt Paul’s advice – talk to the sauce. Ask it what it needs, sing to it when it starts bubbling, stir it with gusto while shakin’ your hips. I know, sounds crazy (I still can’t bring myself to do it… I’m afraid my neighbors will hear me and call the cops) but I’m telling you, her sauce was the BEST. So good that it honestly made you want to sing and dance after every bite. And then after your third plate, curl up on the kitchen floor until it was time for cookies & coffee. Ah, I’m so glad I had no idea what a calorie was in those days!

Of course, I can't make it and NOT splash it all over me. Aprons are highly recommended.

So, here is the sauce “recipe” … my best advice is to add all of the ingredients, and then as you taste, sing and stir, you can add more salt, pepper, sugar, cheese and spices to taste. Mangia!

Sauce Ingredients:

extra virgin olive oil

1 big cooking onion (yellow or white)

5-6 chopped garlic cloves

36 oz. tomato paste

28 oz. tomato puree

Spices – to be added to taste:

basil (fresh or dried – fresh abt. 5 bay leaves, dried abt. 2 tbsp.)


crushed red pepper

salt & pepper


onion powder

garlic powder


cheese (” LOTS OF CHEESE!” – Mama Ro)


Heat large saucepan with EVOO (just to coat bottom of pan). Add chopped onion and let sweat out, abt 2-3 minutes. Add chopped garlic. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until onion and garlic are soft (make sure not to burn the garlic).

Add paste and puree. For every can of paste, add 3 cans of water. For every can of puree, add 3/4 can of water. Stir and bring to medium boil. (My ma wants me to add to “stir carefully – if the heat is too high it will splash all over you! Wear an apron/old shirt.” Thanks Ro.) Remove acid with a spoon as it rises to the top. Stir the sauce often, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan.

Add meatballs (recipe to follow) and/or Italian sausage or spare ribs. after 45 mins-1 hour. Add spices and continue to cook for another hour after adding meat. Continue to taste and add spices, depending on what kind of sauce you want to create. Spicy = more red pepper, sweet = more sugar, not sure (as I usually am) = more everything!


1 pound lean ground beef  (90 percent lean)

1 pound lean ground pork

2 eggs per each pound of meat

seasoned breadcrumbs (about 3/4 cup for 2 pounds of meat, but you can add more if needed)

salt & pepper

1 T dried mint

1 T dried parsley

1/2 c. chopped onion

1/2 c. of pecorino romano cheese

water as needed


In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your hands, roll mixture into 2 – 3- inch balls. If mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs; if it is too dry, add more water.

You can cook the meatballs two ways: on the stove or in the oven. For the stove, brown meatballs in a frying pan coated in EVOO. You can also brown the Italian sausage or spare-ribs here, too. After the meat is browned all over, add to sauce, stir, and cook for an hour.

(For more flavor, you can chop another onion and saute it in the frying pan with more EVOO after the meat is done, then add to sauce.)

If you want to cook meat in the oven, place meatballs/Italian sausage/spare ribs on a large cookie sheet coated with EVOO. Bake meat for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then add to sauce.

*Side note – my Ma is a freak about meat being cooked all the way through before adding it to the sauce. However, my Aunt Josie, who is one heck of a cook, puts her meatballs in the sauce absolutely raw – no browning. And her sauce, is well, unreal. I prefer to meet my Ma and Aunt Josie in the middle – I only cook my meatballs for about 10-15 mins, then add them to the sauce. You’re going to cook the sauce for at least another hour anyways, so the meat will be fully cooked when it’s time to mangia!


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