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, your extended family was also there. Each week from when I was a child until well into my 20’s, we were all at my Nani’s house every week for Sunday Sauce. Maybe you are wondering about Sunday Gravy? Let me help settle the debate…its always Sauce and never Gravy (LOL). Italian Sauce vs Italian Gravy really depends on what its called in your Italian family.
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 and there was never a thought of doing anything else on a Sunday. Looking back now, it’s those family dinners became a big part of who I am. Whenever possible, l will make an Authentic Italian Sunday Sauce and try to keep the tradition going in some way.
Authentic Italian Sunday Sauce (NOT Sunday Gravy :))
When my Nani was sick, I spent all those hours in the hospital talking to her about her recipes that I knew only existed in her head. I wanted to be able to continue the traditional foods for our kids, and for our kids to pass them down to their kids
This Sunday Sauce is my Nani’s recipe (and therefore my Mom’s too) and the meatballs are from her sister, our beloved Aunt Pat. who recently passed away at the age of 94 as the matriarch of our family.
While this isn’t exactly a low calorie, “diet” (I hate that word) 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. One thing I don’t mess around with is the Farbeware pot that I use. I’ve tried other, more expensive pots and I always go back to my Farberware!
My Sunday Sauce 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’s as authentic as you will ever get and its delicious. It will be the only Italian Sauce recipe you need!
Make the Meatballs
I bake my meatballs instead of frying them because not only are they healthier, I find that they stay together better and there is less mess.
We may not have weekly Sunday dinners anymore, but at least I can carry on and share the food traditions and pass them down to my daughter.
What are your family’s traditional recipes?
- 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage (there are about 4 sausage links per pound)
- FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground veal
- 6 handfuls italian seasoned bread crumbs (2 handfuls for each pound of meat)
- 3 handfuls grated parmesan cheese (1 handful per each pound of meat)
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 eggshells of water (just do it lol).
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf 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. A
- dd 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.