This is a quintessential part of a Sunday meal in many Italian families. A ragu is really just a large batch of tomato sauce used to simmer different types of meats in preparation for a traditional Sunday dinner. In this recipe, we’ll be simmering sweet Italian sausage, Mamma’s Meatballs and Brasciole.

Growing up, Sunday “dinner” was actually mid-day – a large meal prepared after having returned home from church and Sunday school, but before leaving once again to visit i nonni – my grandmothers. My mom would prepare the ragu early in the morning, before we left for church, so that it would ready in time for a 1 or 2 p.m. meal. This ragu was served as the main course, but it produces an ample amount of tomato sauce, meant to be used in serving the first course of pasta.

So, prepare this sauce, boil some spaghetti, and enjoy una bella piata di pasta – a beautiful plate of spaghetti tossed in this flavorful sauce, followed by these meats and accompanied by a crisp salad – you can try the Insalata Mista | Mixed Salad or Cucumber and Tomato Salad. We would follow up these courses with fresh fruit and nuts, and round out the meal with dessert – a course we exclusively enjoyed on Sundays. Check out the Dolci | Desserts section of the site for some ideas.

Ragu | Italian Meat Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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    For the Sauce:

  • 2 32 oz jars of Passata, or 2 28 oz cans tomato puree with no salt or other seasoning added
  • 28-32 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • Red Pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • For the Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef (80-20)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • For the Brasciole:

  • 2 lbs (8 pieces) brasciole meat – top round, sliced thinly (often labeled as “Brasciole Meat”
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons parsely, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow or Spanish online, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • toothpicks
  • – 1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage


  1. First, prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients – ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper – and mix well so that the ingredients are uniformly distributed thoughout the meat. Roll meat mixture into balls about 2 inches in diameter, and set in a plate. Remember to wash hands properly after handling raw meat.
  2. Wrap each slice of brasciole meat between a piece of plastic wrap, and wrap loosely. Tenderize the meat slightly with a meat mallet, being careful not to break through the meat, as it is already sliced thinly. Remove the meat from the plastic wrap and lay on a work surface. Season each slice with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Directly in the center of each slice, fill with a few slices of sliced onion, sliced garlic, a few leaves of parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Although there is no need to be exact in how much each brasciole is filled, you will want to ensure that the the filling can be contained when the brasciole is rolled – it should not come out of the ends of the meat.
  4. Wrap the bottom half of the meat over the filling, tucking it under and continuing to roll until you have formed the involtini. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining meat and set aside.
  5. Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and allow to heat for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the brasciole on each side until the meat browns and releases easily (perhaps with a gentle nudge) from the pot, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
  6. Add your passata or tomato puree, then rinse out the jar or can by filling it halfway with tap water. Add the water to the sauce and stir to combine. To the sauce, add all the seasonings – salt, oregano, parsley, and basil. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to come to a vigorous boil.
  7. Once the sauce has reached a boil, reduce the heat to a low flame, and add back in the brasciole, sausage, and finally the meatballs. Stir gently so that all of the meat has been covered with sauce, and simmer on low for 1-3 hours. The meat will be cooked through after an hour, but will continue to tenderize in the sauce the longer you cook it.
  8. Serve ragu alongside a salad, such as Insalata Mista | Mixed Salad or Cucumber and Tomato Salad.

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