Spaghetti Sauce. Sunday Gravy. Meat Sauce. Ragu. Bolognese. There are as many names for it as there are ways to prepare it. In our family, we simply call it “Sugo.” It’s one of the first words my children learned to speak. They regularly request “Pasta Sugo” for dinner and have confused more than one babysitter in the process.
The unmistakable scent of garlic and oregano and tomatoes simmering on the stove is one of my earliest memories. It’s the first recipe I learned from my mother (and grandmother). One of my favorite recipes to share with friends since college. One that my husband and children adore. And yet, somehow, I’ve never blogged about it. Perhaps because sugo, much like the people I share it with, is a little bit different every time I make it. It’s a recipe so deeply rooted in my memory that I find it difficult to extrapolate into actual measurements. Sugo is something you feel as much as it is something you cook.
But the time has come. Lillian is four now, which is about the time my own memories of making sugo begin. On top of that, Grandma Rose is about to turn 96. The time was ripe for a spaghetti and meatball making lesson. This past weekend we had my parents and my grandma stay with us for the weekend so that we could teach Lillian about this most important of our family food traditions. (Don’t worry, its not just for girls. When he’s old enough, Maxwell will have his own Sugo Saturday).
We captured the day and Grandma’s meatball recipe in an article for Inspired Home, which you can read here. The sugo recipe, I decided to keep on my own blog. Something about it is too personal to put somewhere else. But like an important part of our family’s history, it deserved to be photographed, its story written down and passed on. So, without further introduction, here it is: Our Family’s Sugo Recipe. Salut.
Pasta Sugo: Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
4 Italian sausage links, cut in half (optional)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (24 oz.) bottle tomato puree or tomato juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning blend
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
- In a large, heavy stew pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef and italian sausage links over medium high heat. When meat is browned and sausages are golden on all sides, transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add olive oil and onion to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add tomato paste and continue cooking the mixture for another 5 minutes, until the tomato paste takes on a dark red color. Rinse tomato paste cans with a bit of water and add to pot.
- Add meat back into pot along with crushed tomatoes and tomato puree, sugar, herbs and spices. Stir until the sauce is evenly combined. Bring sauce to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and continue simmering for an additional 2 to 3 hours. If desired, add cooked meatballs to sauce during the last few hours of cooking. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Serve sauce over hot spaghetti, with meatballs and Italian sausage on the side.