Classic Brooklyn-Italian Meat Sauce

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This recipe from It’s All American Food: The Best Recipes for More than 400 New American Classics.

Some sauces are slightly meaty tomato sauces; this sauce is a slightly tomato-ey meat sauce. There’s nothing all-purpose about it: you serve it on pasta when you want a few ladlefuls of liquid meat! It is exactly what I grew up with in Brooklyn, when the choice at most Italian restaurants for spaghetti sauce was “tomato sauce” or “meat sauce.” Later on, we all learned that this sauce has its roots in the renowned Bolognese Ragú. But you’d never mistake one for the other. The ancestor from Bologna has a mix of meats in it (sometimes including chicken liver), and much less meat. The Classic Brooklyn-Italian Meat Sauce has tons of ground beef alone—and, after an hour or so of cooking, a surprising amount of wonderful, hearty flavor.

Makes about 3 quarts



2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely minced garlic
½ lb. onion, peeled and finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced
3 lbs. ground beef
2 cans of tomatoes in juice, 28 ounces each
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano

1. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. Push vegetables to one side of the pot, and add about ⅓ of the ground beef. Salt the beef to taste. Cook until starting to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Stir the beef occasionally, breaking it up as you do. When it starts to brown, push it to the side (or over the vegetables) and repeat with the second ⅓ of the beef. After that starts to brown, push it aside and repeat with the final ⅓ of the beef. When all the beef is done, mix the beef and vegetables together.

3. Add the tomatoes with their juice to the pot. Add the tomato paste, sugar and oregano. Mix well. Simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes against the side of the pot as you do.

4. When the sauce is done cooking, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or freeze.

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