I wouldn’t call this a classic Sunday sauce, I believe that a true “Sunday sauce” would cook for hours and have an assortment of meats in it like short ribs, sausages, meatballs, etc. This is a healthy sauce I use to serve with my meatballs. It is one of my favorite creations, and a culmination of many tips and tricks I learned from family, friends and chefs over the years. People always rave about my sauce and meatballs, I can’t believe I am giving away all my secrets!
My version of weekend sauce is use lots of veggies and a combination of canned San Marzano tomatoes (for sweetness) and real plum tomatoes (for freshness). I use a bit of beef stock and finish off my meatballs in the sauce for an element of meatiness. Butter adds richness, wine a sweet twang and broth and my new best friend the immersion blender makes it smooth!
It will take a 90 minute commitment, including making the meatballs, as opposed to all day, and tastes fantastic! Something you can do after church and soccer and get on the table relatively quickly… today’s version of a Sunday dinner.
This sauce can also work really well for an evening party, put the sauce and meatballs with ziti and cheese in an aluminum tray over a burner, or make it vegetarian by keeping out the beef stock and meatballs and combine with cheeses and ziti. Or…serve the sauce and meatballs in a tray and leave off the pasta, the serve large Italian rolls and a big antipasti on the side.
You need a really big pot for this, but as I mention at the end of the post, if you are not serving an army of people at a party, you can save much of the sauce in the freezer for many future mid-week meals, so you have some “meals in the bank” for the future.
5 large carrots
5 celery stalks with leaves
1 large or 2 smaller white onions
8 ripe plum tomatoes (squeeze out most of the seeds)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cans of whole tomatoes (San Marzano – slice them a bit in the can with a clean scissor)
1 cup beef stock (or if you only have chicken stock that works too)
1 cup dry sherry (or port, or a favorite table red wine)
Secret: Adding wine will bring out the sweetness in the tomatoes and not to worry, most of the alcohol content will boil away
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp sugar
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste (if you are using an unsalted broth then put 2 tsp salt at first, then taste later to adjust)
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp butter
Clean all of your veggies and chop them in a large or mini prep Cuisinart, keeping one carrot trimmed and whole.
Trick: My part Sicilian mother taught me this: A whole peeled carrot with only the top and bottom trimmed off, put into the sauce will soak up all the acidity from the tomatoes. Put it in once you have finished blending your sauce with the immersion blender, then toss before serving.
Put the olive oil in the large stock pot and warm. Once it is heated, add in the vegetables to cook down for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the cans of tomatoes to the pot. Clean out the remnant tomato sauce from the cans by pouring the stock and wine into the cans, swishing it around then pouring it into the sauce. Add the Italian seasoning and sugar.
Tip: If you have any fresh Basil or oregano you want to add to the sauce, that goes in right before serving so you don’t blacken the fresh herbs. Dried herbs can go in at the beginning.
Use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth, being careful to not splatter too much. Once the sauce is all smooth, then add in the carrot and the bay leaves. Add in the butter 1 tbsp at a time and stir it in to melt – butter adds richness to any sauce! You can now add in your meatballs.
Tip: If you like a chunky sauce, just cut down some of the larger tomato chunks or use a crushed tomato from the start; then, skip the blending stage and serve it as a hearty garden sauce.
As I mention in the meatball blog, the sauce can be portioned into containers and put into the freezer, label the lids with the date and what is contained (use masking tape and a sharpy, no need for labels). That way you have dinner for that night and also for days in the future when you are out of ideas!