Friday, December 30, 2011

Chrystal's Grandmother's Sauce and Meatballs

If you know me, you may know that my memory is a bit like swiss cheese...but the one thing I have held onto from my childhood is the smell of my grandmother's homemade sauce and meatballs.  Yum.  My grandmother lived in Rochester, NY, and I have faint memories of being in her house, but strong memories of how this sauce smelled after 12 hours of simmering on the stove.  My mom passed the recipe down to my sisters and I after years of begging, and as soon as I made my first batch, all of those olfactory memories came flooding back.  I am not a good cook, by any means - it's a good thing I can read a recipe - but this is one thing I am proud to make.  I have even made it my own a bit over the years, mostly just to make it easier or bigger, because it certainly didn't need my help to become tastier.

The original recipe - with sauce stains and notes and all.

Grandma's Homemade Sauce and Meatballs

4 small cans of tomato paste
2 large cans of tomato puree
1 medium onion
1/2 of a large green pepper
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/2 teaspoon oregano

3 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion
1/2 large green pepper
3 garlic cloves (minced)
2 medium eggs
3-4 slices of bread
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flake

Pour tomato paste and puree into your sauce pot.  Fill cans with water and stir well, adding the tomato water to the paste and puree.  Set the pot on low heat and stir until smooth.  Add spices and stir again.  Chop veggies with your food processor.  Split each pile of chopped veggies in half.  Add one half to the sauce and stir.  Simmer the sauce without a cover for 10-12 hours, stirring well at least every hour to prevent the sauce from scorching the bottom of the pot.

While the sauce simmers, make the meatballs.  Put ground beef in a large mixing bowl along with the other half of the veggies, the eggs and spices.  Then tear the bread into small cubes and add to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly with your hands, adding some more bread if the mixture is too mushy. Prepare meatballs by rolling a small amount of mixture between your hands until it is firmly shaped into a ball.  Stack them on a plate until all are made.  In a large frying pan on medium heat, brown each one for about 4-5 minutes on all sides.  Add meatballs to the sauce, stir again (and again and again and...  get the idea?).

Serve with your favorite pasta, parmesan cheese and Italian bread.  Enjoy!

Tips on how to make it my way

The above recipe is from my grandma and mom.  Like I said, I have adapted it a bit.

  • I don't add quite as much water to the sauce as they suggest (about 1/2 the amount), but I do add 2-3 cans of diced tomatoes (with liquid).  
  • I usually have to use more bread than is suggested for the meatballs, and I do not tear the bread into cubes - I put the bread into a food processor (I actually use a Black and Decker chopper like this) to make bread crumbs to add to the mixture.  I also use this chopper for all of my veggies.
  • I use grass fed ground beef (80/20) - it adds a lot of great flavor, and is better for my kids (and the world)
  • I stir at least every 30 minutes.  Even with a nice All Clad stock pot, I seem to get scorching every time I make this sauce if I only stir every hour.  Set a timer for 20-30 min, and plan to spend the day with your sauce. 

Simmering until you can't stand it...
Having a heavy bottom pot helps.

Making a large batch

If I am going to spend all day making this sauce, I am going to have plenty of leftovers to enjoy!  I usually double this recipe, and then freeze portions in labeled plastic containers.  There is always more sauce than meatballs, so sometimes I just double the meatball recipe and keep the sauce ingredients the same.

This was my last batch!


You can also make a nice meatloaf with the meatball recipe.  Just remove the salt, black pepper, and red pepper.  Add some ketchup, dry mustard, worchesterchire sauce, and a packet of french onion soup mix.

Asher loves his mommy's sauce!


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