Traditional Italian Tomato Sauce: Calabrian Style
When I say I’ve had more than 10,000 bowls of pasta in my life, I’m pretty sure that’s conservative.
But before I keep writing about my enduring talent to consume bowl after bowl of glorious carbs, I should give credit where credit is due.
These are my grandparents. The OG pasta king and queen.
Custodians of thousands of years of Italian wisdom, there are three pieces of advice they are determined to pass on.
- Not too many friendi.
- No boyfriendi.
- Mangi, mangi!
I oblige where I can.
To kickoff a project close to my heart and even closer to my stomach – I’m sharing a recipe that was passed down to me, and will now be passed down to you.
It’s legendary. It’s so simple it's actually genius. It’s a classic Italian tomato sauce, Calabrian style.
What you need
- 2 x 600ml bottles of pure tomato puree. If you have an Italian family that’s forever preparing for an apocalypse, you’ll have many of these at home. If not, Mutti or any other puree where the ingredients are “tomatoes, salt” is good.
- Roughly 2-3 fist sized pieces of lamb. My Nonna uses whatever she has available, as she usually buys a whole animal from a farm and gets through it over time. Anything with bones and not to much fat is generally fine – I like to use 2 lamb shanks.
- 100ml or “a good splash” of olive oil
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons of oregano
- 4 bay leaves
What you need to do
Finely chop the garlic, onion and parsley. Warm the olive oil in a large sauce pot, and add the garlic, onion and parsley. Cook over low heat for two minutes, or until the mix is fragrant but hasn’t started to brown. (The smell is heavenly).
Add the meat and brown is all over. This is what my Nonna usually does, but she went a little rogue the day I took the photos. Bless.
Once the meat is brown, add both bottles of tomato sauce. When they’re empty, fill them up with water and give them a good shake. Every last little bit of tomato puree goodness will dissolve back into the water.
Pour the bottles of tomato-y water (mmm) into your sauce. Add the oregano and bay leaves.
Let the sauce come to a boil, then turn it down to a low heat. Leave it for at least three hours, more if you have time. 6 is optimal.
After three hours, the meat should be falling off the bone. Traditionally Italians take the meat out, and serve it separately with the the meal. If I’m feeling like a bad Italian I like to take it out, pull it apart, and put the meat back in the sauce.
Boil your pasta. Serve it up. Take in the sweet smell of hundreds of years of tradition.
And of course, mangi, mangi!