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Critique my Tomato Meat Sauce Recipe

Hi all.
I am interested in receiving feedback on what you think of the following tomato meat sauce recipe I've been using for a few years. It has been developed with ideas from various recipes over the years. I'm generally happy with the results, but always looking for ways to improve.

I think it makes 8 - 9 quarts. It's nice to be able to pull a quart out of the freezer when we don't have anything else planned for dinner. It is a very meaty sauce. It is especially good as the base for a lasagna.

Ingredients:
106 oz can whole italian tomatoes (Nina brand from Costco)
28 oz can tomato puree (Hunts)
14 oz can tomato paste (Goya brand)

4-6 oz pancetta cut into small dice
1 lb ground turkey (7% fat) (that is the highest % fat ground turkey I can find)
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal

2-3 carrots
2-3 celery stalks
2-3 yellow onions
handful of dry mushrooms reconstituted
(The above four items are shredded fine in a food processor)

2 TBS dried italian seasoning
2 Cups dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 cups chicken stock
Liquid from reconstituted mushrooms (grit filtered out)
1/4 cup soy sauce
Salt
Black pepper
EVOO

Heat EVOO in large stock pot. Add diced pancetta and cook slowly until fat is rendered and pancetta is browned. Turn up heat and add the shredded carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture is released and cooked down a bit. Add the meats, italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring and breaking up meats, until meats are cook through.

Add wine and cook down, stirring occasionally.
Add chicken stock and cook down, stirring occasionally.
Add mushroom liquid and cook down, stirring occasionally.
Add soy sauce, tomato paste and stir.
Add tomato puree and stir.
Give tomatoes a quick whirl in the food processor and add to pot. (be sure to fish out the basil leaf)

Let cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Allow to cool a bit (in winter i put the whole pot outside on the porch). Portion into quart containers and place in fridge uncovered to cool completely. After cooling, cover containers and place the ones that won't be used in the next few days in the freezer.

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  1. Looks very nice.

    I wonder about the white wine. I think I would experiment with some red, like a barolo or cab. Nothing too expensive, but something on the dry side.

    The only other thing that jumps out at me is that I don't see any fresh herbs. You sort of want to brighten a very meaty, long(ish) cooked sauce like that. I would see what a good bundle of chopped basil tossed in half way through cooking and maybe some finely chopped parsley would do. Even a bit of fresh lemon juice would brighten it up a bit without making it citrusy.

    But I'd be very happy eating it the way you already do it. Good job.

    1 Reply
    1. re: EarlyBird

      If I was going to cook this sauce for a while, I would add fresh sage and rosemary, but then they grow in abundance in my front yard. I'm also not a fan of ground turkey so would probably trade that out. But, like the others have said, I haven't made the recipe.

    2. Its tough for me to critique without tasting.

      But I will comment: I like EarlyBird's suggestion of basil. For 8-9 quarts, I'd use about 3 handfuls of fresh chopped basil.

      Me? a favorite ingredient is Italian hot sausage. 8-9 quarts, I'd use maybe 16 links to simmer with all liquids.

      I also like spicy - personal preference, I'd add about a handful of dried chili flakes for 8-9 qts.

      And fresh garlic - I'd use maybe 3 whole heads, peeled.

      I never used soy in tomato sauce...might have to give it a try, or maybe Maggi.

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker

        ^^^This. And I'd omit the turkey. This is a personal preference, since my dad's family was Neapolitan, and we'd trend to using beef and sausage, veal and pork, rather than turkey in sauce.

        1. re: porker

          Oh yeah, garlic! How could I not see there was no garlic in there? It seems everything I cook starts with garlic and onions. And yes, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, for sure.

        2. I would:
          Brown the veal, turkey and pork first and set aside.
          Next brown the panchetta and set aside
          Then saute the veggies in the same pan
          Deglasze the pan with the wine (but I'd use a Cabernet Sauvignon) and proceed from there.
          I don't see the value of 2 ounces of soy sauce in a gallon of sauce and the recipe doesn't indicate what variety of soy sauce to use.
          The recipe advises "(be sure to fish out the basil leaf)" but I don't see where the basil leaf goes in. Additionally, I could see why you'd want to fish out a bay leaf but why fish out a basil leaf?
          What - no garlic??? Heresy ......

          2 Replies
          1. re: todao

            agree with the above suggestions.

            i can see the use of soy for umami, but parm rinds would be more traditional.

            instead of turkey, why not sausage? the former is pretty neutral in flavor and i'm not quite sure why you include it?

            also do not care for the bitterness celery imparts, so it's not something i ever use in red sauce of any kind.

          2. Personally I like white wine with tomato. The acidity is nice. I also noticed the absence of herbs, but I prefer spices. I'd add a little grated nutmeg and crushed fennel seed. Toast both. I also agree I'd skip the turkey. I'd substitute a little minced grilled steak. If you have to add an umami boost, in lieu of soy I'd crush an anchovy fillet or two.

            But I'll bet I'd eat yours as is and enjoy it.

            1. Opinion - just me. Just opinion:
              Lose the carrots and the celery.
              I "get" the soy sauce, but I'd not want to use it in place of plain ol sea or kosher salt.
              I'd get some bones in the mix, like neckbones. You are rockin the bacon, veal and pork, I don't really get the turkey component unless it's just to get rid of some fat. I'd get some bones in there. pork neckbones,oxtails..get some bones.

              I'll second the addition of garlic as well.
              And, a cleaner taste deepener than soy, imo - half a cup of brewed decaf coffee.
              I don't think I'd use something called "Italian seasoning," but again, just opinion. I use single herbs as needed.