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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

famiglia day: nonna's sugo & meatballs edition.

yesterday was family day. a lovely little excuse to spend a day with your famiglia, and get paid for it. ahhhhh thank you canada. this year, i knew exactly how i wanted to spend this special little day: in my nonna's kitchen (the one in the basement. not the nice one upstairs. never that one), learning how to make her sugo and meatballs. and, so that y'all are on the same page:

famiglia ~ family
nonna ~ grandmother
sugo ~ sauce

i figured i would kill two birds with one stone, and squeak in a 30 by 30 item that i have wanted to accomplish for some time. i called my nonna to make sure she was down with the plan, and figured out what i needed to buy and bring to her house. because the whole famiglia attends dinner, we needed to make enough for 10 of us. plus enough for everyone to have left overs. which is a lot. she told me to pick up a few things, and i wrote a list with plans to shop the day before. just as we headed out the door to pick everything up, my mom called me:

ma: "amanda. don't buy anything for tomorrow".
me: "but why? i have a list".
ma: "nonna bought all of it already".
me: "of course she did".

it's what she does. so all i had to do was show up, with coffee, ready to work. 
now because homemade pasta is a day long process, we decided to save it for another day. part two if you will. 

how we do: nonna's sugo & meatballs
nonna's sugo
{makes 8 mason jars of sauce. ridiculous.}
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 6 hours
eating time: speed of light

you will need:
a huge ass pot
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 mason jars of nonno's crushed tomatoes
2 cans crushed tomatoes
4 large cans of tomato paste
seasonings~ garlic powder, salt & pepper
on high heat, coat the base of your pot with a generous layer of olive oil. add 2 cloves of sliced garlic and allow to fry for about 5 minutes-before it starts getting any colour. run 2 mason jars of nonno's crushed tomatoes from the garden through a food mill, and add to your olive oil and garlic. mix well and allow to simmer on high heat. if you don't have access to mason jars of nonno's crushed tomatoes from the garden, you can add 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes instead. nonna always uses 'unico'. 
yes, it makes a difference.

while that's bubbling away, in a bowl combine 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes and 4 large cans of tomato paste. again, 'unico' only for this nonna. swirl a bit of water around your cans and add to the tomatoes. this will make it easier to mix everything. add this to your pot and stir until combined. add your seasonings to taste, about 3 tablespoons of garlic powder and salt & pepper (nonna spilled some pepper while doing this step, causing her to yell "shuck". which in nonna, is a combo of "shit" and "fuck". she's allowed to make up words and use them whenever she sees fit). add a few cups of water to your sauce, enough that your pot is now 3/4 full. the water will evaporate away and leave you with a nice, smooth consistency. allow it to come to a boil and sim simma.while your sugo is doin' it's thang, you can work on the meatballs.

nonna's meatballs
{makes approx 50 meatballs. again. ridiculous.}
   prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 2 hours

you will need:
2 packages of ground beef
2 packages of ground pork
3 large eggs
1/2 mason jar of nonno's (or canned) crushed tomatoes
2 nonna handfuls of bread crumbs
2 nonna handfuls of parmesan cheese
seasonings ~ garlic powder, salt & pepper, paprika

combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding  the seasonings to taste. add your crushed tomatoes last, making sure you mix everything well. i didn't know she added tomatoes to the meatballs until yesterday. my mom didn't either. she smirked when we told her this, like she had been keeping this filthy little secret from everyone for all these years. roll the meatballs to your desired preference. if you're like my nonna,  you may prefer to rock out balls of the larger variety. if you are a fan of medium sized balls, like myself, that's ok too. just try and keep them as consistent as possible, so they cook fully and evenly.
once your sauce has been boiling for about an hour, you can add these bad boys to your sugo! note: italians do not cook their meatballs before putting them into the sauce. they will tell you that pan frying, or even baking them, creates a seal around the ball, making it difficult for them to soak up the sauce while cooking, which is the key to getting moist, juicy balls. trust me. no one likes shrivelled, dried up balls. at this point, nonna will also add chicken drumsticks, spare ribs and hot italian sausages. this adds to the flavour of the sauce and gets served as a side with dinner.

allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce until they are fully cooked, which takes around 2 hours. at this point, you can remove the balls, reduce the heat and leave the sauce to continue simmering. 2 hours later, your sugo is finished and you can boil your pasta. throw your meatballs back into the sauce to heat up again, and it's time to get dirty.
i had the most wonderful day in nonna's kitchen, and am over the moon that i finally learned how to make her sugo & meatballs from scratch. it's something that was passed onto her, and that i can pass on to my kids--i think that's my favourite thing about food. it brings us together as a family, it makes you feel good; it's food for your soul. or is it nonna herself that's doing all that?
i hope you had a happy famiglia day!


  1. Bellissimo! That looks shockingly authentic. The cooking time is shockingly authentic too! But that sort of hours-upon-hours thing really is necessary I know! Once a year project me thinks.

    And passing down family recipes really is the most wonderful thing ever. x

  2. MMMMmmmmmmmm this looks delicious ... you and Hannah need to stop posting food on here for gods sake. I always check these things out right before bed and end up tossing and turning cause I feel like i'm starving.

    We too have a delicious homemade pasta sauce recipe from my parents sans fresh pasta however!
    We usually make a HUGE ASS POT exactly like the one in your post and then freeze a bunch ... we are all out ... this is inspiring me to get my ass in gear and makes some more SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. This looks like a wonderful time Amanda! It looks so delicious. And family recipes are so special. <3

  4. Thanks girlies, I appreciate all the lovin' you send my way :) You are all so sweet.

    Hannah~Give it a whirl! I KNOW Jason will be so blown away, he'll draw you little cartoons and make your stuffed kitties.

    Aimee~It's probably a safe bet that I will mention food in my posts. Keep this in mind when you decide to read: I can't promise you anything. Freezing the sugo for a later date is the BEST part. Nothing like homemade sauce and meatballs in the middle of the week, with nothing to do but boil some pasta.

    Brittany~Thanks! It was as delicious as ever :)


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