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Oct 25, 2013 01:26 PM

Trying to recreate an old family recipe

In preparation for a funeral in a few days, I'm trying to recreate my grandfather's spaghetti sauce recipe. He wrote it down, once, a few days before he passed several years ago, but it's currently sitting in a storage unit 2000 miles away. He got this recipe from an Italian woman that he dated prior to leaving for WWII, but he went to the war and never married her - and broke her heart and she never married.

Known ingredients:
Oregano (lots)
Bay leaf
Tomatoes/tomato paste from a can
Brown sugar

All the ingredients are fairly standard - but the technique in all the recipes I can find starts with "put the meat in a pot and brown it", but my grandfather never did that - he always made meatballs separate.

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  1. Ina's meatballs are very good. Use her recipe for the meatballs, make the sauce to your liking and use her cooking instructions.

    1. Sounds like the same ingredients my mother learned from an Italian neighbor during WW2.
      Heat some olive oil over medium heat add chopped onion, cook until soft. Add chopped garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Add small can of tomato paste, stir until slightly brown, about a minute. Take a large can of whole peeled tomatoes and either crush by hand, or use a stick blender. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot. Stir add some Chianti, sugar, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, bay leaf, reduce heat to low and cook for a few hours, stirring, often. Cover pan loosely, with the lid ajar. Make meatballs and either pan sear or cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Add the meatballs to the sauce for the last hour of cooking time.

      1. First, I make meatballs and fry them up. Then I use the pan with all the tasty bits and prepare the sauce. Try this it may be close to your grandfathers. I noticed his recipe does not include celery, onions etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: treb

          The original poster's ingredient list for the sauce did include onions. The ingredient list is very similar to the recipes used by Italian immigrants to the East Coast of the US during WW2. The poster wants to duplicate her/his grandfather's recipe.

          The sauce is made first and meatballs ,(if using), are added later.

        2. So you neversaidif youareplanning to do meat or not?

          I love doing the MB's separate, trio, and then the Browning seems to flavor the sauce once they go in..... so in lieu of doing that maybe a tsp of good beef paste quality boulloin?

          I rediscovered Oregano these past few years when I bought a bulk bag of oregano to refill my spice bottles. This authentic greek stuff is so much stronger and taste infinitely better. I found it at a specialty import store. Don't think what we cook with is the same as the ingredients of the past. Maybe that is it?