I. Love. This. Sauce. It is one of my staples. I almost always have a batch in the freezer. There are SO many reasons why I love this sauce. It's called "Sunday Sauce" because it needs to simmer for at least a few hours, and this type of sauce was traditionally made by Italian-Americans on Sundays for the big family Sunday night dinner. To be honest though, my Sundays are usually a bit too busy for this, so I usually make it on a weekday so it can simmer while I'm working from home.
So, why do I love this sauce so much?
First off, I'm not very good about eating my vegetables. (That's right folks. Not all yoga teachers live off of rabbit food!) And this sauce is an AMAZING way to get lots of veggies into my diet without being able to tell they're in there! (I realize that also makes this a great recipe for kiddos. Let's not think too hard about what that says about me...)
Second, it's super easy to make giant batches of this stuff. So it's great for entertaining! (And if you're watching your budget, it's a great way to impress your guests with something truly delicious without breaking the bank.)
Third, it freezes SO well. So I can make a gigantic batch, freeze most of it, and have enough to last me for weeks and weeks! (Assuming I don't throw a big dinner party first.)
Fourth, I use it so many ways! It's perfect to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner over pasta. But it's also delicious layered into more time-consuming dishes like lasagna or a non-veg eggplant parm.
As for you, you can change it up to suit your tastes however you like. Not a fan of fennel seed? Leave it out, or just cut it back! Vegetarian? Skip the meat! You can also use any combination and ratio of meats and veggies that you like. I share my favorites below, but you should definitely experiment til you find your fave.
Active cooking time: 30-45 min (depends on how fast you are at cutting veggies)
Total Cooking time: 2-4 hours (the longer it simmers, the richer the flavor!)
2 tsp Dried Fennel Seeds
1 tbsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp each of Dried Rosemary, Thyme, and/or Basil to taste. You can omit them completely and just up the oregano a bit if you prefer.
4-6 tbs of butter for sauteing (to taste)
1 medium-sized Onion, diced*
2-5 Cloves of Garlic (to taste), minced
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced*
2-3 big handfuls of shredded carrot
4-5 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
8oz mushrooms, diced*
Optional: 1-2 bell peppers, color(s) of choice, diced.* I usually don't use bell peppers because I find that their flavor overpowers the sauce, but if you're a pepper fiend, add away!
1 lb ground meats of choice. (I use either half pork and half beef, or equal parts veal, pork, and beef when I'm feeling extra indulgent. You can definitely play with ground turkey, chicken, lamb, etc. too. Mixing meats adds a great depth of flavor, so I definitely recommend using at least two meats!)
2 - 4 glugs of Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tsp sugar (to taste)
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
salt + pepper to taste
*Dice all veggies to roughly the same size as each other. You can choose the size - bigger the dice, the chunkier your sauce will be. And it doesn't need to be a perfect dice - a rough chop will do. That's one of the best things about this recipe - there's lot's of wiggle room!
For more on this, check out the videos to the right:
Heat a large pot on the stove over medium high heat. Flick a little water at the bottom of the pot to test if it's heated up yet. When the drops sizzle and evaporate immediately, you're good to go.
Dry-toast your herbs/spices: add fennel seeds and all dried herbs to hot pot. Stir occasionally, being careful not to let the fennel seeds burn.
When the fennel seeds are fragrant and browned, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter and a few pinches of salt. Stir occasionally until butter has melted and just begins to sizzle.
Add diced onion and saute until it just begins to brown. If needed, turn the heat up a little more here so that the onions saute (get some brown color on them) rather than just sweating (stay white but get limp from cooking).
When onion starts to brown, add mushrooms and saute until they start to brown and shrink.
Add the rest of the veggies; saute until they start to get soft.
Push all veggies out to the edge of the pot, making a veggie ring around the outside of the pot and leaving a big empty circle in the middle. Add 1-2 tbsp of butter (the leaner the meat, the more butter I recommend) and a few more pinches of salt to the empty circle.
When the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add your meat to brown. Do your best not to mix in the veggies until you've gotten a good crust on the meat. Once most of the meat has browned, then you can stir it all together.
Add tomato paste, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well-combined; cook for about 5 min, or until the mixture has been bubbling for at least a minute. Make sure to stir often, or the bottom of the mixture may burn.
Add crushed tomatoes. Stir it all together and heat til it's bubbling merrily. Then turn the heat down all the way to low and let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour; up to 4 hours. Stir occasionally.
You can eat it immediately, but (as with most things of a simmery, stewy nature - like chili!) I think it tastes much better the next day.
Put enough in your fridge to keep you happy for a week. Freeze the rest. I recommend freezing in individual/meal-sized portions so you can just thaw what you need when you need it. Enjoy!