• Carmen Graham

Recipe Roundup: Grandma's Sauce

The best thing about meat sauce, gravy, red sauce, sauce, meatballs–all those amazing rich, tomato-y sauces that kind of stick to your ribs and make you feel good–is that everyone has a favorite.

At our house, there's no question, it's my mother-in-law's red sauce. And like any family recipe you adapt it, figure out what you have on hand, make it work for you, but you also just try to do it justice. Hers is a lowww and slow. And it is RICH. And my 3 year old will eat it (though not ANYWHERE near how well he eats it with her!).

Grandma is Italian by way of Brooklyn. And she is fiercely loyal, fiercely family-first, but also the nicest person you've ever met. My mother-in-law is honestly goals when it comes to just genuinely caring for people. She asks after you, your friends, your family and remembers details about things you tell her that you barely remember. And I swear, you feel that when you eat her red sauce.

So without further ado, grandma's red sauce, with tips for how to make it a little more on the fast-track.


2 large cans pureed San Marzano tomatoes (I like Pomi brand)

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 tbsp of salt

1/4 tbsp pepper

1/2 tbsp oregano (or Italian seasoning)

a bunch of fresh basil

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup + more of grated Parmesan cheese

3-4 links of Italian sausage (I like mixing sweet and spicy)

1 lb ground beef

1/4 lb ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs


How to do it:

  1. Brown chopped garlic in olive oil in a deep pot, brown the sausages in the same pot.

  2. Add the pureed tomatoes, spices, basil, wine and 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the pot with the sausages.

  3. Let it simmer for at least 3 hours (if you've got the time! It really does make a huge difference)

  4. Mix the ground beef and pork, season with salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of parmesan, egg and water until its very very moist. Like, sticking to your fingers moist.

  5. Roll into balls and put on a baking sheet.

  6. Cook for 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

  7. Place the meatballs in the sauce for the last two hours.

  8. When you're ready to eat, they're amazing over pasta or with a big crusty loaf of bread.

  9. Smother with more parm and some fresh basil. If you're feeling crazy, a blob on ricotta is delish too.

How to do it if you're short on time:

  1. Season ground beef and pork with Italian seasoning, breadcrumbs and parmesan, and egg. Mix up with your hands as if you're making meatalls

  2. Brown chopped garlic in olive oil in a deep pot, slice up the sausage and drop the ground beef and pork into the hot oil and garlic. Cook the meat about 60% through, picadillo style.

  3. Add the pureed tomatoes, spices, basil, wine and 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the pot with the meat and sausage.

  4. Let it simmer for as long as possible!

  5. Steps 8-9 above.


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