Ma’s Meat Sauce – Spaghetti and Meatballs (or Braciole)

When you think of food and movies, your first thought is probably of Julie & Julia or Ratatouille. Or perhaps Eat, Drink, Man, Woman if you watch more foreign films.

Well, there is another genre of movie that uses features food very regularly: Mafia movies. No, really. I mean, why else did Coppola eventually open a winery?

Seriously, though, in The Godfather, Pacino is given a lesson in making meat sauce, not to mention that Brando is shot while shopping at a fruit stand. There is even a famous quote, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Goodfellas features food throughout the movie, including the special deliveries they were given in jail to make feasts that remind them of home. A movie in 2000, Dinner Rush, even recognized this regular food and restaurant theme to all mafia movies and took it to the next level by setting their entire movie in one “family” owned restaurant.

While I always have loved to cook, watching these gangsters not only cook but take pride in their cooking skills really made me realize how manly cooking can be. (Not that is has to be manly.) In fact, a real man should be able to cook. Nothing will impress a women more than a delicious home-cooked meal.

Meat sauce was actually one of the first things I learned how to cook. My mother would make a huge pot of it every other month and store whatever we didn’t eat in the freezer for the rest of the two months. We never ate store bought jarred sauce. It’s a tradition I continue to this day.

Making it such large quantities is important for 3 reasons:

1)   It is very work intensive the first time, but after that you’ll have easy delicious meals easily re-warmed in the microwave.

2)   It’s cost effective. The meal isn’t expensive in the first place, and you can easily feed your family at least 8 good dinners from it. All you need to do is boil some pasta. (Although it is also good to make lasagna with.)

3)   It tastes even better after it has sat in the freezer for a while and all the flavors have time to sit together.

The first day you make the meat sauce I recommend making Braciole, which is flank steak stuffed with bread and cheese and simmered all day in red sauce. It makes the sauce taste better and you get a delicious roll of meat you can slice for everyone at the table to go with their Spaghetti.

Later, when you defrost the sauce for a dinner, make some meatballs. Meatballs are best cooked in a ladle or two of read sauce.

Ma’s Meat Sauce with Braciole


1 flank steak, any size

½ cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese, grated

Italian herbs, fresh or dried (basil, rosemary, oregano and/or thyme)

olive oil)

Meat Sauce

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 large celery stalks, chopped

3 very large onions, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

12 large mushrooms, chopped

2 pounds ground beef

4 29 ounce cans tomato sauce or tomato puree (I prefer 2 cans of each)

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

½ bottle red wine

salt and pepper to taste

celery salt

2 bay leaves

fresh or dried herbs to taste (the more tomato sauce used, the less needed. The more tomato puree used, the more needed): parsley, rosemary, basil, and oregano 

  1. Season both sides of the flank steak with salt and pepper. Lay the flank steak flat and spread one side with parmesan. Layer the breadcrumbs mixed with Italian herbs on top of cheese leaving a quarter inch at each side of the meat. Top breadcrumbs with another layer of parmesan cheese.
  2. Roll the flank steak lengthwise and secure with metal meat skewers.
  3. In a large dutch oven, brown rolled flank steak on each side in olive oil. Remove and set aside.
  4. Saute onion, celery, and bell pepper with salt until softened and slightly browned.
  5. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add ground beef and brown.
  7. Add wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half or absorbed by the beef and vegetables.
  8. Add tomato paste, herbs, and bay leaves. Cook for 30 seconds.
  9. Nestle browned Braciole back into the dutch oven.
  10. Add tomato sauce and tomato puree. Mix well, taste, and add dried herbs, celery salt, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook at least 2 hours, stirring and tasting occasionally. Continue to add dried herbs to taste.
  11. Remove the braciole and slice. Serve meat sauce on top of desired cooked pasta with a slice of braciole on the side. Top with parmesan.

Freeze remaining sauce.


½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

2 stale loaves of bread

1 egg

1 Tablespoon milk

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 teaspoon basil (or other Italian seasonings)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cups Ma’s Meat Sauce

  1. In the bottom of a large bowl combine the bread milk and egg. Using your hands combine the ingredients to form a paste. This is the binding glue for your meatballs and should not be to wet.
  2. Add the beef, pork, garlic, and basil to the bread mixture. Mix well. Using both hands form the meat “dough” into balls 1 ½” in diameter.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pan over medium high heat.
  4. Brown the meatballs on all sides, moving them carefully so they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. After the meatballs have browned, but not cooked through add one or two ladles of meat sauce (about 2 cups) and finish cooking the meatballs through. About 10 minutes.
  6. Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta. You can pass extra sauce if needed. Top with Parmesan.

2 responses to “Ma’s Meat Sauce – Spaghetti and Meatballs (or Braciole)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s