Mom’s Pasta Sauce

April 30, 2014

My Mom is probably one of the best chefs I’ve ever known.  She makes some mom staples: spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, peanut butter chicken, big breakfast, pirogi and stuffing are the dishes that I look forward to eating when I go home. Some of them even bring out my sisters and their families for dinner.

I’ve decided I need to write down how she makes these items while she’s still willing and able to share the recipes with me.  Everyone is familiar with meatballs and red sauce, but there’s something about my Mom’s sauce, the flavor of her meatballs that just melt in your mouth. Never too spicy but with a flavor that dances on your tongue. They marry well with the sauce, which she sometimes enhances with green peppers and onions.

Why start with her red sauce? She uses jar sauce as a starter to the sauce.  Keep this in mind if you try her additions.  She uses a blend of Ragu and/or Prego.  I feel that Ragu is more acidic and Prego more sweet, so they balance each other out.  I’ve used other more expensive and more generic brand sauces and they all work, though, it’s really a matter of personal taste. Some offer more vegetables, garlic or cheese which add different nuances.  Go with what appeals to you.

If I’m making the meatballs, I tend to stay away from meat sauces, as they have more sodium in them than I prefer.

This will be a regular sausage and meat sauce.

Ground beef, hot sausage and garlic

I used about 1 pound of 80/20 ground beef. You can use chicken, pork or turkey if you’re watching your fat intake. You can use super lean/lean meats too.  The meat is lightly browned in a tablespoon of olive oil with about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped.

While that’s cooking, add about 1 cup each of chopped onion and pepper (green or red).  Cook them down until the onion gets a translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat.

Onion and peppers

At this point, my Mom adds two jars of sauce and stirs.  Then she adds her dry ingredients; 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper (fresh ground preferred), and a generous pinch of sugar.

Seasonings and tomato sauce added

She lets it simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes then adds about 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of Worcestershire sauce.

Secret ingredient

The last addition is booze. She’s used red wine, port wine, and sherry. If you don’t like or don’t have booze you can substitute balsamic vinegar.  Regular vinegars will work too. She pours in about 1 cup (8 ounces).

Sherry this time

Simmer. Honestly, the longer you simmer the better it gets.  I generally let it go for a few hours (3 to 4 hours) on a low heat.


So, I mentioned meatballs.  My mom was not up to making the meatballs the day we made the sauce.  So I just got her recipe and procedure for ya’ll!

Mom’s Meatballs

Pour the milk onto the bread and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Mom said you want it thick/soft but not too think nor soupy.  You then add..

Mix that all together and form into balls.  If they’re too dry you can add a bit of the sauce into the mix.  Mom lets the balls rest for about 20 minutes to set them, then just places them into the sauce which ends up poaching them.  If you like more seasoning, go for it. I’ve added dried basil and oregano to my mix even red pepper flakes for little heat.


I’ll eventually go over the other family favorites, as she mentioned making pirogi next month if I would make a short rib filling.  Having never watched my Gram make the pirogi I am looking forward to learning how to make this traditional Polish dish. Mom’s peanut butter chicken is legendary amongst friends, her big breakfast was always the best way to settle down after church on Sundays.