This dish is on the shortlist of the best food ever.
Its list of ingredients is long, and the quantities here make a huge, huge amount of sauce. You’ll most likely fill or slightly overfill an 8-quart stockpot. So be sure you have enough room in your chosen cooking vessel.
The herbs and spices here are my suggestions, but feel free to substitute—except for the parsley, which is absolutely essential. Also feel free to vary quantities to taste; these amounts are educated guesses. This is how I do it, as best as I can convey.
Incidentally, when you sauté the onion and parsley and garlic, you’re making what’s called a soffritto in Italian. Marcella Hazan describes the process in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
This recipe makes enough for a crowd, with leftovers. It makes an excellent red sauce for lasagna.
Finally, I recommend making this when you have sufficient time to relax and enjoy the process. The prep work is about an hour and a half, and the sauce needs to cook a while to allow the flavors to marry. Typically, I like to make it and cook it a while on one day, then cool and refrigerate overnight. The next day, take it out, warm it up, and cook it longer. I’ve cooked this sauce as long as seven or eight hours. Generally, it gets better the longer it cooks.
- 2 pounds ground beef or chuck
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 pound ground veal
- 2 large yellow onions, finely diced
- 3/4 cup loosely packed finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 small carrots, washed and grated through the small holes on a box grater (about 1 cup)
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
- 8 oz button mushrooms, washed and finely chopped
- 8 0z baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, washed and finely chopped
- 2 6-oz cans tomato paste
- 4 14.5-oz cans tomato sauce
- 2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- red pepper flakes, to taste
In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown the meats in batches. Don’t rush this step; use small batches, about a pound each, and really brown everything. If you’re doing it right, it’ll stick a little. Scrape the pot to remove the brown bits as best you can. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Put a couple tablespoons olive oil (or classically, lard) into the pan. Add the onions and parsley and cook stirring occasionally, over medium high heat, until just translucent.
Add the garlic and cook a minute or two, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn it.
Add the remaining vegetables, except for the mushrooms, and cook several minutes until soft.
Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 8 minutes, or until the tomato paste has lost its red hue and turned orange. Add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce along with 1 28-oz can water and the wine. Add the thyme, marjoram, basil, and oregano, and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat so that the sauce simmers. Cook it down for several hours, stirring occasionally, until thick and saucy. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Serve over cooked spaghetti with Parmigiano-Reggiano passed at the table.