My grandparents were full blooded Italians from the old country. This recipe was passed down to my grandma from her mother and she passed it to my mom. As far as my parents and siblings are considered, this truly is our family’s comfort food. This recipe calls for beef stew meat but grandma also made it with chicken, Italian sausage and lamb, whatever was on sale. In 2002, Grandma passed away just 2 months before her 101st birthday.
Extra virgin olive oil
2 – 2 ½ lbs beef stew meat, any big chunks of fat removed
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 – 4 28 oz cans whole tomatoes, (preferably San Marzano tomatoes), crushed
1/2 small can tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy bottom large sauce pan or enamel dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan over medium heat. When hot, add meat and garlic and stir. Season with a large pinch of salt (about ½ tsp) and pepper. Brown until juices cook down and meat browns nicely on all sides. This browning creates great flavor.
Open 3 cans of tomatoes, reserving 4th can as needed. Pour into a large mixing bowl and crush one can at a time (this works the very best with your hands). Carefully add tomatoes to browned meat – they are notorious for spattering. Then stir in tomato paste and chopped parsley.
Bring mixture to just a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Let simmer very low for several hours, stirring occasionally to keep from burning on the bottom.
Ladle over just drained pasta - - our favorites are rigatoni, and gnocci, and gently stir to incorporate. If sauce seems too thick, add a ladle of pasta cooking water and fold into pasta and sauce. Top with freshly grated parmesano-reggiano cheese.
If after a few hours of low simmering the sauce seems extremely thick, add juice from 4th can of tomatoes. Add tomatoes as needed also.
Kim’s notes: Grandma made this sauce with tomatoes she had bottled from her garden. She added a can of tomato paste for each quart sized jar of bottled tomatoes because they contained so much juice. Most canned tomatoes don’t contain as much juice particularly San Marzano or plum style tomatoes. Use more tomato paste as a thickening agent but I don’t recommend adding until after a couple hours of simmering time.