Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My mom's meat sauce

I'm not Italian. I just play one in my marriage.

And I've often thought that the recipe for my mom's meat sauce would make my Italian mother-in-law's hair stand on end. There's something about the ingredients for this sauce that lacks authenticity, but the end result is really really really good. Even my mother-in-law thinks so (though I've never actually told her how it is made). I've served this sauce, in fact, to countless members of my husband's family and never once has anyone labeled me a fraud.


Here's what you need:

2 pounds of chopped meat (you can use all beef or all pork, or a combination of beef, pork and veal)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 large can of tomato juice (see? not an authentic ingredient)
1 large can of tomato puree
1 large packet of spaghetti sauce seasoning mix (again, not authentic)
3 heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
1 generous teaspoon each of dried basil, and dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil, then add the chopped meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, stirring often.

Pour in the tomato juice and the tomato puree, mix well. Add the seasonings: basil, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, seasoning packet and then stir in the parmesan cheese.

Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes. The beauty of this sauce is that it almost doesn't matter how long you let it simmer. If 30 minutes turns into an hour, no problem. If you only have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, no problem.

Spoon over hot pasta, sprinkle with more parmesan cheese and you're done.

I admit to enjoying this sauce so much that I will very often eat it out of a mug with a spoon. So, again, in the most inauthentic way, I guess the pasta could be considered optional. ;-)


  1. Any idea what's in the spaghetti sauce seasoning mix that isn't getting put into the sauce with the other seasonings? Do you think it would suffer a lot if that was left out?

    Also? My Italian friend's sauce recipe includes tomato puree, too! So no need to feel too inauthentic!

  2. I've never heard of spaghetti sauce seasoning mix but will look for it today. The idea of you eating this out of a mug with a spoon has sold me. I'll let you know how it goes tonight!

  3. I'm curious about the seasonings in the packet. I can't use most of the prepackaged mixes because they usually contain an igredient to which one of us is allergic (wheat, corn, soy). Which brand do you use?

  4. My mom uses the Lawry's Seasoning pack or McCormick's. I can't find either of those here, so I use Spatini (which may be regional to the East Coast). And yes, I think the spaghetti seasoning pack is crucial. I've made it without, and it's good, but not as good. The pre-mixed seasoning might be easy to duplicate (the way goodfountain did with taco mix) but I've never tried. And finally, purée is commonly used to make sauce--it's the juice and the seasoning pack that make me think of this as not quite like your Italian grandma's version.

  5. How do you think it would be without the meat, Kristen? Or do you think the meat is essential? Just curious, since we're vegetarian.

  6. Hi Melissa! I think without the meat, I'd probably opt for a basic sauce recipe (like the one I described in the post on chicken parmesan last month). I think the meat is a key ingredient here, it gives a lot of flavor.

    That said, I don't think it would taste bad if you made this sauce without the meat, it would just be a different sauce.

  7. Just wanted to report back that this sauce is absolutely awesome. It tastes eerily similar to Buca di Beppo's amazing meat sauce which we get quite frequently. My husband was very happy. Thanks for the recipe, Kristen!

    (oh and I found McCormick's seasoning mix down here in the baking/spices aisle)

  8. KAL, thanks!! So glad to hear you enjoyed it. (By the way, the leftover sauce will freeze beautifully for another day.)