Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Only Red Sauce Recipe You'll Ever Need!

This is my go to red sauce. Here in South Philly we tend to call it "gravy". It is somewhat adapted from the Simple Tomato Sauce recipe in "Lidia's Family Table" by Lidia Bastianich - one of my favorite cooks and cookbook authors. I think I have almost all of her cookbooks. I enjoy the ways in which Lidia melds the Italian traditions with American cooking. When I want traditional I go to old Marcella Hazan books.

Basic Red Sauce


8 cups (2 - 35 oz cans) Italian plum tomatoes with their juices. We used the end of our own canned tomatoes for this latest batch. If canned do try to get real San Marzano.

1 large onion, rough chopped

1 medium carrot, rough chopped

1 rib of celery, rough chopped

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (kosher) plus more to taste

2 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Put the tomatoes through a food mill using the medium blade (see picture) or push the tomatoes through a colander or sieve set over a bowl. This is an important step. It gives your sauce a lovely lux consistency.
Put the onion, carrot and celery in a food processor and pulse - you want everything finely and uniformly chopped.
Pour the olive oil in a big heavy bottomed pot. Stir in the chopped vegetables and set over medium high heat. Sprinkle with the salt. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, bring the veg to a sizzle but don't let them brown. I set a timer for 3 minutes.
Pour the milled tomatoes and juices into the pan and stir with the vegetables. Use the 2 cups of water to swirl any tomato residue from the bowl and the empty tomato cans. Pour the water into the pot.
Stir in the bay leaves and the red pepper flakes, turn up the heat, cover the pot and and bring the sauce to a boil, stir frequently.
When you get the sauce boiling, adjust the heat to an active simmer - you want small bubbles all over the top of the sauce. If you have a "simmer" burner on your stove top this is the time to use it. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 45 minutes, remove the cover, raise the heat so that the sauce is still bubbling well and gradually reducing.
Cook for another hour or so, stir frequently to avoid any sticking to the bottom of the pot.
As the sauce thickens, turn down the heat.
Taste for salt near the end of the cooking process.
When the sauce is reduced by about a quarter and is well concentrated but still pourable, turn off the heat.
Let the sauce cool. Remove the bay leaves. Let the sauce sit for an hour or two to allow the flavors to mellow.
This sauces freezes very well. If you follow the steps you will always have a great sauce and once you do it a couple of times, it really is easy.

My Meatballs

Another simple recipe, yields great meatballs.

Combine 1 pound of ground meat and the meat (remove it from casing) of 1 pound of hot Italian sausage.

Add two beaten eggs, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon or more of dried oregano, a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a quarter cup of panko crumbs and mix - By hand is really the easiest. Roll into whatever size meatballs you like.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 425 for about 30 - 35 minutes. Until they are browned. They will not be completely done. Finish the meatballs in the sauce.



  1. Looks delicious, can almost smell it. Your Italian granny would be proud, if you had one.

    1. She wasn't convinced that she wasn't Italian!! Thanks.

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