Return to The People’s Palate

Meat my friend, sauce

By Josh Steiner

Meat my friend, sauce.

Welcome back frustrated readers to my food porn blog, graciously hosted by the people’s press project. Today we will look past theJerseyshore, see red, consult an empress, open a can and meat the sauce.

Italian American means more than a cologne and hair gel situation…

Tomato sauce, red sauce, meat-sauce or gravy, whatever you call it, it’s a classic. The thought of meat sauce conjures images of Italian Grandmothers wielding giant spoons, stirring cauldrons of tomato sauce. However that would be incorrect, but with the addition of one word we can conjure up a more historically accurate image. American…


What we think of as meat sauce would be unrecognizable to Italians. That’s because, meat sauce or Ragu, which originally hails from theBolognaregion in northernItalyhas cream in it. So, what happened, that we now associate meat sauce as the red thick sauce we all enjoy today?

Ask empress of Italian Food Lidia Bastianich whose Empire includes; TV shows Lidia’sItaly, Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen and owner of the Production Company, Tavola (Food Table). She is also author of cook books, and owner of 7 Italian restaurants throughoutNew York,Pittsburgh, andMissouri. In a June 2011 interview with Aspen Business Journal she explains Italian American cooking.

She explains the Italian migrants in the early 19th century came from southernItaly, likeSicily. By using the ingredients they found in America they attempted to replicate the food they knew from home and thus created the genre of cooking we all know and love, Italian American cooking. She continued, “It’s part of the American History, because it reflects the products ofAmerica, the history of those early immigrants.”


Take tomatoes, the plum tomatoes that grew in southernItaly, had thin skins, plentiful pulp, and few seeds, ideal for making sauce. Italians soon learned that to adapt to the fleshier seed abundant American tomatoes, they needed to add sugar, garlic, and lengthen the simmering time. Creating the weightier, red sauced dishes typically thought of as Italian American food.

Until recently I had never made an excellent meat sauce but then while I was researching something else a Google search turned up a curious website. Which is a website ran by a young woman who started a blog while she attended The Culinary Institute of America. I jotted down her recipe for Tomato sauce (which I would call meat sauce) and found the secret to meat sauce.

The secret is outta the can…

I always used fresh tomatoes, so when I read this canned recipe I looked around. In the same aforementioned interview, Lidia Bastianich says “People are always fresh-fresh-fresh, but I think a good plum tomato in a can, whole in their juice makes a better sauce.” After I read that I checked two separate cook books by the king of seasonal Italian cooking; Mario Batali for his tomato sauce recipe both the same… Canned tomatoes.

So I made’s recipe for Meat sauce here’s how I did it so you can do it too…

1 lb Italian sausage and 1 lb ground beef (I had five lbs of leftover sausage so I did 2 lbs of sausage)

1 large diced onion 5 cloves garlic

1-28 oz can of plum tomatoes (use San Marzano if available)

1- 8 oz can of tomato sauce 2-6 oz cans of tomato paste

1-2 cups of water 1 cup white wine (my addition)

3 Tblspn sugar 1 cup of pasta water

1 lemon seeds and juice removed (some of these ratios are mine as the website didn’t list all ratios)

She uses by the bunch: rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, fennel, salt and pepper.

I had and used: ¼ cup dry parsley, ¼ cup ground fennel, 1/8 cup dried oregano, salt and pepper…

Start by browning meats over medium heat, once browned remove some fat if desired and add onion, cook onion until translucent (about 3 min) add garlic cook for about a min. Now we deglaze with our wine, just do us both a favor and take it off the heat first, stir the wine in and put pan back on the heat. Then we add our canned tomatoes; don’t bother slicing them they’ll deconstruct while cooking. Follow that with out can of tomato sauce, tomato paste water, seasonings, salt pepper and lemon.

Simmer for as long as possible, if it starts to thicken up, add some pasta water from whatever pasta you are making. Now that the beans are out of the can… Sauce, it’s nice to meat you…

*Joshua Steiner is a food obsessed individual who has worked in restaurants and kitchens for most of his life and held just about every conceivable job in the industry. Now he’s bringing his tips, tricks and travels to The High Plains Reader and for you to use in YOUR kitchen.


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