Cooking with Norma – Italian Sauce

A few months ago I expressed interest to my Grandma Norma about doing a monthly segment I like to call “Cooking with Norma.” She is one of the best cooks I know and has a lot of family recipes I’ve grown up enjoying.  Most of these recipes are Italian favorites she passed on from her parents who came over to America from Ancona, Italy.

This sauce has been a staple in our family and thought it would be the perfect recipe to start with. This recipe is a meat sauce with meatballs, Italian sausage and some short ribs for flavor. It’s great to make in the winter time since it produces a fair amount of sauce which is great for freezing and using whenever needed.


3lbs 80% ground meat – for sauce

6lbs 85% ground meat – for meatballs

8 Italian sausages

4 short ribs

1 red onion

6 garlic cloves

3 28oz cans puree tomatoes

4 28oz cans crushed tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

handful basil

1/2 cup half and half

4 tbls sugar

4 eggs

1 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

5 tbls curly parsley chopped

1 small can V8 Spicy Tomato juice

Ground cloves

Red Wine

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and Pepper


In a large skillet, coated with a little olive oil, brown the sausages and short ribs on all sides and set aside for later. Keep the pan on the stove with the grease reminants and save for the meatballs.

In a large pot, saute diced red onion in some olive oil until slightly translucent then add in 2 diced garlic cloves and a few dashes of salt and pepper. After 2-3 minutes, add 80% ground meat and brown with the other ingredients.

To make red sauce, using either a food processor or blender in batches if needed, puree the 4 cans of crushed tomatoes with 4 tbls of sugar, 1/2 cup of half and half and 1 cup of chicken broth (we used a blender and did two batches – 2 cans crushed tomatoes, 2 tbls sugar, 1/4 cup half and half and 1/2 cup chicken broth per batch). Add this to the large pot with the browned meat along with the 3 tomato puree cans. If there is any excess tomato juice in the cans, scrap them down and add to the pan as well. Then throw in a handful of fresh basil (you will remove these later so do not dice). Finally add in the browned Italian sausage and short ribs. Let it cook on the stove on low to medium heat.

Now for the meatballs. In a large bowl, add the 6lbs of 85% ground meat, 4 eggs, parmesan cheese, V8, parsley, salt and generous amount of pepper.  Using your hands, mix together until well blended. We don’t use any bread crumbs anymore because we have two people in our family that are allergic to Gluten.

Form into meatballs using your hands. We made ours pretty large which produced a total of 40 but you can make smaller ones if you choose.

Using the same skillet you used to brown the Italian sausages and short ribs, brown the meatballs on all sides (may have to do in batches depending on size and amount of meatballs).

While you are browning the meatballs, add 4 whole cloves of garlic to the sauce pot. As the meatballs are done, add to the sauce. Once the browning is complete, add a splash of red wine to the skillet and mix that with the grease. Then add that mixture to the sauce pot.

Finally take the container of ground cloves and sprinkle a dash in what I called the north, south, east, west fashion – so one dash in four spots. Then season with salt and pepper.

Now that everything is in the sauce pot, let cook on low to medium heat with the lid on for an hour or so. It’s always good to have a taste tester present to see if you need to season again. Using a spoon, remove the basil from the pot.

We always find the sauce has the best flavor after it has sat for a day. Therefore, once the pot is cooled down, place in the refrigerator overnight.

You can then either heat the entire pot again the next day or distribute to freezable containers and use only what you need.

We love to eat over spaghetti, rice pasta or just plain with grated cheese since it’s that tasty!


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