Here we go, kids. This is my baby. I’ve been making and perfecting this sauce for over thirty years. It is the basis for all of my Italian dinners involving a red sauce. I will give a few variations and a couple of quick additional recipe ideas at the end of this recipe but just follow the directions and you will blow some minds and drop some panties.
Quick warning, this motherfucker cooks for a long time. Hours or even two days. You have been warned.
One of these days I will do a “Kitchen Essentials” column about what you need in a basic kitchen environment as far as pots, pans, knives, spices etc but I’m going to assume for now that you have the basics as far as cookery goes.
Let’s get to it!
1 medium to large onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped (yes dammit, green! Don’t pussy out and use a red pepper. Green!)
5 cloves of garlic minced
7-8 mushrooms sliced
1/4 cup of olive oil.
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano preferably)
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (San Marzano preferably)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (just in case)
1/4 cup of red wine
5-6 sweet (mild) Italian sausages
1 lb ground meat. Seriously beef, pork or ground veal will all work gloriously well
2 tsp red pepper flake
some fresh basil
pepper (if you haven’t started using freshly ground black pepper then take a moment to re-examine your life to this point and start using some freshly ground black pepper for fucks sake)
fresh parmesan cheese, either freshly grated or shaved and If you are still using that green cylindrical can then may you be the first who is eaten alive during the zombie apocalypse you fucking heathen.
Using a dutch oven or big ass pot, pour the olive oil into a hot pan. Rule of thumb, hot pan, cold oil. Place over a medium-high flame.
Chop up the onion and green pepper and saute in the pan until almost translucent, about 12 minutes. Throw in your sausages and cook until browned on each side. Remove sausages from pan and brown your ground meat.
When the ground meat is browned, drain the grease from the pot. For a handy grease disposal trick, I open my can of whole tomatoes and place in a bowl until ready to use. You can drain the grease into the empty can. Pretty damn smart, huh?
Return sausages to pan and now you add in your cloves of garlic and stir things around until the garlic becomes fragrant.
You know those cooking shows where the cook chops up the onions and other veggies and the garlic and throws all of them in the pan at the same time for several minutes? Well, fuck those cooks. You never want to burn your garlic ever! It goes in at the last moment and is only cooked until fragrant because burnt garlic is bullshit! There I feel better.
Add in your whole tomatoes now. Here’s where it gets fun and very goddamn messy. Crush each individual tomato into the sauce. Yes they will spray juice every fucking where including on your clothes, so just wear red and deal with it. Actually you can kind of softly pre-crush the tomatoes before adding.
Now stir everything up and cover with a lid. You want to bring the heat down to a gentle simmer. Crack the lid on your pan to the side so a little steam vents while cooking. Cook for an hour. Stir every 10-15 minutes
After an hour, add the can of crushed tomatoes, the red pepper flake, the red wine, your basil and oregano. Remember we’re using fresh herbs here. You can use dried and it won’t kill anybody but fresh is much better. Use several leaves of each herb and tear or chop into bits. Also add the salt and pepper I guess it’s about 1/2 tablespoon of each. Now you are going to simmer this big pot of loveliness for the next, oh 5-6 hours sound about right? Yeah, let’s do that. Remember to stir every 15 minutes or so and scrape the bottom of the pan so nothing burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan because that would truly suck after all of this effort. Keep the flame low and simmer with the lid barely open.
Handy cooking tip, if you wanted to, it is entirely acceptable for the cook to sneak in there after several hours of cooking and steal one of those delicious sausages and throw that bastard on some bread with a little of the sauce and sprinkle a little cheese on there and if you are cautious and sneaky enough you can chomp down on that sausage and nobody will be any the wiser. That was fucking delicious wasn’t it?
After an eternity has passed your sauce is finally just about done. Just kidding. Remove the sausages from the pan and cut each sausage into about 4-5 segments. Kind of like little sausage meatballs. Add these back to the pan. Also put in the sliced mushrooms and cook for about another hour.
If you wanted to you could serve this right about now with your favorite pasta and some crusty bread and it would be magnificent. Life altering even.
If you were to let this cool off and put it in the refrigerator overnight then reheat it and add that leftover 15 oz can of tomato sauce and cook for an additional hour? Holy shit. You would become a culinary god. Fucking legendary! They will sing songs about you and you will be certain that the westward winds originate from your butthole. I use angel hair pasta or fettucine but you can use what you prefer. And don’t forget the garlic bread. Use the fresh parmesan over the top of the finished dish.
Variation 1. Remove the sausage and ground meat from the ingredients and this makes a spectacular veggie sauce that can be served with damn near anything. I use the vegan version for grilled chicken rigatoni and also for chicken parmesan. I gave my chicken parm recipe a couple of weeks ago on the Week in Review from the Mother blog.
For baked ziti. Make the original gravy with the meats and procure a small container of ricotta and some fresh mozzarella. Add an egg to the ricotta along with a couple of grinds of black pepper and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg (NUTMEG!) Cook your pasta, if you can’t find ziti pasta use rigatoni, penne, mastacioli whatever. Mix the ricotta mixture with the cooked pasta, add in some of the sauce. Stir together, dump remaining sauce on top and cover with the fresh mozzarella, either grated or sliced. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve.
For lasagna. prepare your lasagna noodles, put a layer of the original sauce, the meaty version, on the bottom of a large pan. Add a layer of noodles. Do that same trick with the ricotta, egg, nutmeg (NUTMEG!) mixture that I just discussed in the ziti recipe and add a layer of that, then more noodles, layer of sauce, layer of ricotta goo, layer of noodles, etc. Finish with a layer of sauce and cover everything with freshly grated mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Serve.
Final disclaimer, I have been making this for decades and it is still my single most family requested meal from pretty much my entire family. Stay true to the recipe for a couple of tries before you diversify.
Enjoy with a nice glass of red, a chianti would be good but a cab or a shiraz or a pinot noir would all work well. Or just drink a metric shit-ton of beers with it.
If you ever have any questions, suggestions or just really can’t cook without some additional help, drop me a comment and I will do my best to get back at you.