Pasta, macaroni, spaghetti-whatever you call it-I don’t have a memory that doesn’t include it. Pasta was, and still is, a large part of my life. Growing up, we ate pasta on Sundays and Thursdays. It’s what we did. Twice a week. Every week. A habit that not even a gluten allergy can break.
I call it Sunday sauce, because regardless if we were eating at our house or my Nonni and Pap’s on a Sunday, Sunday’s pasta always had a delicious, simmered on the stove all day, red sauce on it. The kind of sauce that cooked on the stove for hours, filling the whole house with a delicious, intoxicating smell. The kind of sauce that I used to get chased out of the kitchen for for “tasting” once an hour while it was cooking. The kind of sauce that gets three kids running to the family dinner table on a Sunday night to recap the weekend before a busy week.
Sunday sauce has been in our family for years. My Nonni is Sicilian and I would guess that if you tasted her Sunday sauce and compared it with another Sicilian’s sauce, they’d probably have a pretty similar taste. It’s classic and simple.
After watching my mom and Nonni make sauce for years, sometime in college I decided it was time for me to learn as well. One of the most important things that I learned is that infusion is the key step to any good sauce. You take your garlic, basil, parsley, onion and meat, and you let it infuse the olive oil with a delicious flavor before you even think about adding any tomato into that saucepan. Try not infusing it one time and you’ll taste the difference.
One thing I do a little differently than both my mom and Nonni, is that I use bone marrow for my meat base whenever it is available at the deli. Beef bone marrow, after simmering in the sauce for hours, creates a buttery, smooth flavor that is unlike any other. My mom uses ground beef and my Nonni uses pork ribs or pork butt. They all work great, but some of my best batches of sauce have come from a bone marrow base.
Below is my recipe for Sunday Sauce that comes from generations of practice, lots of children happily fed and amazing times spent around the family table. Remember that you can use any meat for a base and if the harvest is overflowing at the end of the summer, you can also use zucchini as your “base meat” and get just as delicious of a flavor.
If you go that route, just make sure to add a little fennel to your veggie mix-it’ll give it a bold flavor and help bring out the other spices.
Sunday Sauce Recipe:
- 1 and a half small onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- a good swirl of olive oil (probably 2T)
- 2 three-inch pieces of bone marrow or a 1/2 pound of pork ribs or ground beef
- handful of chopped parsley
- 8 basil leaves, chopped
- 1 29 oz (big can) tomato sauce
- 1 29 oz (big can) tomato puree
- 1 28 oz (big can) diced tomatoes
- 1 28 oz (big can) crushed tomatoes
- pinch of salt
- pinch of black pepper
- pinch of oregano
In a large sauce pot, heat up your swirl of olive oil on medium/low heat. Add garlic, onion and meat and simmer for about five minutes until the onions are translucent. Don’t forget that this is when the infusion really takes place, so make sure those flavors have time to sink in!
Add the parsley and basil. Let cook another five minutes.
Add sauce, crushed tomatoes, puree, and diced tomatoes and stir really well. Add salt, pepper and oregano. Stir well again. Reduce to low heat.
Let sauce simmer for at least three hours on a low heat. This sauce doesn’t use any sugar because simmering it all day on the stove will remove the acidic taste from the sauce. Stir about every half hour to 45 minutes to keep the flavors infusing.
Then, you’re all done!