Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, Sunday Gravy

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Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

homemade spaghetti sauce

I learned to make my Sunday gravy, or homemade spaghetti sauce as we know it, when I was 18 years old, by an older Italian woman from Sicily. She spoke no English at all and she communicated with me me by slapping my hand with a wooden spoon. I learned how to make the most important part of any recipe that calls for red sauce so the bruises were well worth it. This sauce freezes beautifully. Once you learn to make your own you will have a hard time finding a jar sauce that compares.

This is a traditional rustic meat sauce and it’s very important to use beef to thicken. I have tried turkey and chicken and it does not work. I serve the meatballs and sausage with spaghetti and shred the beef and pork to use in baked ziti or make soup. In the meantime you can freeze the meat until you are ready to use it, that is if you can keep yourself from snacking on it.

If you have never made homemade spaghetti sauce before, this may sound really involved but it’s not. The tools you will need are: (1) 5 quart pot, 3 bowls, a mesh strainer and a food processor or blender.

Sunday Gravy (Homemade Spaghetti sauce)
  • 1/2 lb Pork chops or ribs (optional)
  • 1 lb Beef stew meat
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, flavor of your choice
  • 4 Garlic cloves, lightly smashed, but left whole for removal later
  • 3 – 5  28 oz Cans tomatoes, mix flavors like basil, garlic, celery etc.
  • 3  14 oz Cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 Med Onion, largely diced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 lg Carrot cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 tbs Italian season
  • 1 tbs Basil, add at the very end
Meatballs Ingredients
  • 3/4 lb Ground beef 93% lean
  • 1/4 lb Ground pork
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 med Onion, finely minced
  • 1 lg Egg
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Directions
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a 5 quart pot  and brown the stew meat in batches. Remove the meat and add to the bowl of tomatoes. Repeat with the sausage and pork chops. De-glaze as you need to with some of the tomato puree and add it back to the bowl of tomatoes. You want all of that flavor.
  2. While the meat is browning, puree/liquify the canned tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Pour the puree into the mesh strainer to drain most of the excess liquid out, then put the tomatoes in a separate bowl. Once you have all the tomatoes done, set the bowls aside. Reserve the tomato juice for tomato soup.
  3. Once you have browned all the meat, pour off any leftover oil slowly, add the tomatoes and meat back into the pot. Add the  tomato sauce, onions, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, carrot and cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer on low 2-3 hours until the meat falls apart. Stir occasionally to keep from burning.
  4. In the meantime, make the meatballs by adding all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Roll into golf ball size meatballs, cover and refrigerate. In about 2 1/2  hours lightly brown them in batches in a little olive oil if you want (or add them raw) and set them aside. Do not fully cook. Use the sauce to deglaze the pan as you need to and add that flavor back into the sauce.
  5. Once the stew meat in the sauce is tender, remove it along with the carrot. Skim off any fat on the top and discard. Add the meatballs and simmer another 45 min with the lid slightly ajar.
  6. If at any time you think your sauce is too thick, you can add some of the tomato juice a little at a time, but I never have to do this. Taste the sauce, If it’s too acidic, add 1 Tbsp of sugar at a time and taste again.
  7. Remove meatballs, add the basil and remove from heat. You now have an amazing homemade spaghetti sauce. I’ll serve spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and freeze the rest in 3 cup containers.

Buon Appetito ~ ~Valerie

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  1. May I ask whose recipe this is? This is fairly similar to what I do, except I don’t use pork, but that’s because I don’t really like pork. And I don’t use onion, because onions don’t agree with my family. But this is almost to a T what my great grandmother would do, although she would use fresh tomatoes and cook them down. It is so true, though, once you find your own sauce (gravy) you will not find a jar you like. I found one that I can tolerate and I stick with that for easy quick nights, otherwise it’s my sauce (gravy) and mine only.

    • Hi Tymeta,
      It’s mine. I too used fresh tomatoes for a long time but as the cost kept rising I switched to canned tomatoes. As with most recipes, I alter them to my taste as well. She used pork neck bones and I don’t care for the flavor of them. I’ve made it without the pork and it’s still a great sauce. I found that combining the shredded pork and beef works very nicely in casseroles like baked ziti which I make often and pork is cheaper than beef but it’s certainly not a major player in the recipe.
      Like you, I keep pre made sauce on hand but I don’t use it often. I always make a huge batch and freeze it. I live in FL and I consider jar sauce ‘storm food’ and use it when I have no power.

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