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Feb 19, 2009 12:32 PM

Does authentic Itallian spaghetti sauce (w/meatballs) have wine in it?

I recently found a new recipe for spaghetti and meat balls thats really tasty from gourmet magazine. The sauce is really basic, whole tomatos, garlic and onion, but is really really good. The one thing that suprised is that there is no wine in it. I was always told that authentic Itallian spaghetti sauce always had wine in it. I'm going to make it again, should I try it with some wine this time?

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  1. Spaghetti and meatballs is not a classic dish.

    It's more like a dish one makes to use up meatballs from the dinner before.

    But, yes, usually, meatballs with tomato sauce has wine.

    1. For anyone to say something is "authentic", there will somedody that will say it is not.

      1 Reply
      1. I believe spaghetti and meatballs is more of Italian American creation...
        My family is Italian American, and we never put wine in any of our red sauces while growing up. Probably for economic reasons! I never felt anything was missing, so
        It took me a long time before I started adding wine in to my sauces.

        The thing about "Italian" recipes is that there is no "one" recipe for anything! different family's have different recipes for each and every sauce or dish.
        There is no right way or wrong tweak it to your own taste.

        And adding a bit of wine to the recipe you have certainly can't hurt!

        8 Replies
        1. re: NellyNel

          Not being even remotely Italian on either side, except by sentiment, I'll just say that if I'm cooking a tomato sauce for pasta, meatballs or no meatballs, and I have a glass of wine in my hand at the time (a frequent occurrence), I am very likely to say Oh the hell with it and dump it into the sauce. Can't hurt, usually helps, and it gives me a good excuse to pour myself another. A winner on all counts.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Will Owen, I am with you. Same goes for german sausage, braised cabbage and beer. Adds a whole new dimension.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Here here, I'm with you Will. If it goes with my food then it should go with my food. Bottoms up!

              1. re: Will Owen

                Love that Will. Great way to cook.

                As has been said above, there's no real "Authentic" Italian other than use as fresh ingredients as you can get. Italians don't plan dinner and buy groceries. They buy groceries and then plan dinner. If they have some wine on hand, they'll put it in, if not, no.

                Tomatoes have some alcohol soluble flavours so adding some wine will open up the tomato flavour. Much like salt will. So in theory it will produce a better sauce.


                1. re: Davwud

                  I like this answer, Davwud. I cook Italian food about 4 times per week, and might splash some red wine in a tomato sauce or some white wine in an oil-based sauce once or twice per month just for something different, and because I've got it handy and open. I tend to be more of a purist when it comes to simple tomato sauce, and I like to allow good Italian tomatoes to be the star. I would not say that wine is a necessary part of red sauce for meatballs.
                  Of course there are many sauces/dishes I make that absolutely require wine, but that's a separate discussion.

                  1. re: Davwud

                    I'm going to confess something here: my most likely moment for using wine is when I'm adding some store-bought sauce to my own combination of soffrito and tomatoes, something I do frequently. After I've emptied the jar I pour in some wine, put the lid on and shake it well to rinse it out, then add that to the pan. The long cold rainy days I require to spend all day making a marinara from scratch just don't come around too often here in LA County...

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Will, marinara from scratch takes ten minutes. Gleep! Americans don't know what a marinara is.

                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        I'm sure you're right about that, and I'm actually talking about something I cook sometimes that is like what I get in jars otherwise. Whatever you call THAT (I like either Classico or Newman's Own) emphatically does not take ten minutes. What does take ten minutes is the one I had repeatedly in Puglia, and finally got the method from two sisters from Bari I sat with on the plane:

                        Peeled, seeded tomatoes (canned or fresh), squeeze very dry. Heat olive oil, throw in chopped garlic. Cook until just fragrant, then add the tomatoes, chop and cook until you're happy with it. I usually splash a little wine into that along towards the end, just 'cause that's the kind of guy I am...

              2. The way i learned to make meatballs and sauce was to brown the meatballs on all sides and then add crushed tomatoes (fresh when in season) salt, pepper and fresh basil and simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 20 minutes.

                1. Having been raised with much time devoted to various kitchens within our family, much of it involving cooking with the Italian members of the family, I would first raise the point that Italian "sauce" (that red stuff you see on spaghetti) is called gravy; not sauce. Most of the "authentic" Italians I've cooked along side of (several from the "old country") would never put meat balls in their gravy. They might serve the meat balls and offer gravy on the side if the guest wished to pour it on their serving, but never drowned in a pan of the gravy prior to serving. Meat balls cooked in sauce is more traditionally a German style of cooking. But we are the world's cultural melting pot so we can be forgiven for our adaptations of foreign cooking styles.
                  Is wine used in making the gravy. Some of it gets into the gravy, the rest of it is shared among the cooks and their helpers. I've often wondered if that was borrowed from the French. One never knows. ;=}

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: todao

                    Well, also coming from a long history of, you know, I beg to differ. Small meatballs were always part of the Sunday gravy (along with everything from beef and pork chunks to ribs, pork and beef braciole, dry and sweet sausage, the piece of pork skin called coutenna for smoothness, and sometimes a piece of chicken and a hard boiled egg). We'd rarely have meatballs in gravy alone. In no case was wine a part of the sauce. Or gravy. Onion, garlic, tomato paste, whole plum tomatoes hand crushed, basil, parsley.
                    I do make meatballs in sauce now, and enjoy them like this immensely.

                    1. re: todao

                      My family calls it sauce, but we're not from Sicily, and it seems descendants of that region are the ones that often call it gravy. But isn't that only the English translation anyway?

                      Meatballs we cook in the sauce, but serve separately.

                      Wine is used in our family to deglaze the pan after frying the meat, and then just a little more to get the extra tomato out of the cans. It's a great excuse to open a fresh bottle anyway!

                      1. re: coll

                        coll, do you have a favorite red to use with your Italian sauces?

                        1. re: Val

                          Cheap chianti style would be fine, nothing too expensive, whatever I'm sampling at the time. Mom in law exclusively used Gallo Hearty Burgandy, and she was my mentor, but I stopped stocking that long ago. It's really just a splash into a giant pot, so not as important as good quality tomatoes! Right now I have one I love, it's Sicilian, delicious, and for some reason my store sells it for $6.99. That is the type When it disappears, I'll move on though, I like to play around.

                          1. re: coll

                            great to know...I usually use Chianti also...can you tell me the Sicilian that you currently use? I might have it available here too! Thank you, coll!

                            1. re: Val

                              Here's the brand with a picture of the bottle so you can recognize it
                              order a case if you have to, it won't cost you all that much and you'll amaze your friends PS if that price is per bottle, I'm going to faint. Has to be per case.

                              1. re: coll

                                Coll, that was very nice of you...the Arancio Nero D'Avola was really great! Found it for $10 at Total Wine; used it in a tomato-based sauce tonight and enjoyed a glass. Thanks!

                                1. re: Val

                                  I'm so glad you found it, my store had it for a year or so but now not lately. I'm going to look again because it was great to have around, and everyone always admired it. Good to know it's still around!

                                  1. re: coll

                                    I meant to type "last night" ... anyway, it gets some very nice reviews at cellartracker, too: