Being half Italian, I always thought it was in my blood to be able to make a delicious pasta sauce without too much effort. Turns out I was wrong. It’s especially hard when you’re trying to emulate your Nonna’s delicious pasta sauce for which there is no recipe written down – she would always just say “a little bit of x ingredient, a little bit of y ingredient” etc, etc. I managed to video her once making it so we do have her method documented, but trying to make a pasta sauce as amazing as hers is hard work. My favourite Italian dish is a penne Napolitana – easy, delicious, and done right can really be a simple dish full of the most amazingly rich flavour. Done wrong and it’s too tangy, too watery and leaves a lot to be desired. So once I moved out of home years ago I set about trying to make a deliciously rich pasta sauce, and it took me a good five years or so to get it right.
Now, we don’t make it from scratch with fresh tomatoes, but neither did Nonna in her later years, so I still consider this an authentic Italian recipe – just with the modern convenience of pre-made ingredients! This is the bolognese version with meat, but you can easily leave the meat out for a Napolitana version, or add a heap of diced veggies like eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms for a hearty vegetarian option. This recipe is for a huge vat of sauce, so if you don’t want to make as much, halve the mince meat, tomato paste and pasta sauce amounts.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
500 grams mince meat (I like to use a mix of lamb and veal mince)
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon of minced garlic YEAH THAT’S RIGHT I SAID A TABLESPOON
1 quarter cup chopped fresh basil
1 quarter cup chopped fresh continental parsley
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 litres of pre-made pasta sauce. I buy the 500gram jars of Napolitana sauce from Aldi, but any basic pasta sauce with herbs will suffice.
1 quarter cup of red wine
Half a teaspoon of salt
Pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a deep, non-stick saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, brown then until fragrant.
2. Add the mince meat. Sauté until the meat is browned.
3. Add the tomato paste and mix together for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the jars of pre-made pasta sauce and mix well.
5. Add the chopped up herbs.
6. Add the red wine.
7. Stir well and turn the saucepan down to a medium-low heat and let it simmer for an hour, stirring every ten to fifteen minutes. After the hour, turn it off and let it sit in the pot for a few hours to cool down and let the flavours deepen.
8. Serve with your favourite pasta and heapings of freshly grated parmasean cheese.
That’s it! It’s really that simple. Also I have to note that I don’t use tinned tomatoes because they leave a really tangy taste in the sauce that I don’t like (and it turns out this was a mistake I was making for years before omitting the tinned tomatoes and using tomato paste instead). Also, I choose not to use a straight passata sauce in a jar as the base for the same reason. The flavour it too tomato-ey and not rich enough. What I really want it a beautiful rich, smooth flavour through the sauce, hence my use of a pre-made Napolitana sauce with herbs.
I also have to add that when I videoed my Nonna making her sauce, she said “add some salt” and literally added a HANDFUL of salt from her salt CONTAINER. Not a salt shaker. A CONTAINER FULL OF SALT. Delicious, but not exactly healthy, so I’ve scaled it right back. If I’m feeling like I want the sodium I’ll add a whole teaspoon, but not a HANDFUL. Sorry Nonna!
As I said, my favourite pasta to pair it with is penne, but bow tie pasta or fettuccine are also delicious.
Until next time,Share this post: