Palumbo Family’s Secret Recipe for

Sunday Red Sauce

“Sunday Sauce” comes from the tradition of making a meat based long cooking sauce that was the

staple of every Italian-American household’s Sunday dinner. This is compared to a “quick sauce”

like a marinara that cooks in less time and is meatless. The ingredients can vary based on family

taste or tradition and contain a mixture of pork and beef … some families use all pork for an even

more “special” sauce. I like a combination of pork, beef and of course, meatballs.


The only spice I use is basil, fresh is better. Never ever oregano or garlic; they are used in marinara

sauce. Onions are fried to start but do not stay in the sauce. The flavor is all about the tomato and the






6 quarts of tomato puree (I prefer puree from Italy sold in glass jars or if canned look for ones made

in Italy, Tuttorossi, Cento or Cirio…)

fresh basil if the tomato doesn’t already have basil in it (you can used dried but its harsher I prefer fresh

or one that I have frozen)

1 tbls or so of olive oil

1 small onion

½ cup of red wine

Baking soda (secret ingredient!)


A variety of meat:  for this size sauce use


2-3 country rib pork or pork neck bones. (people also use pig feet or pig hocks the plain not smoked)

3-4 links of Italian sausage

Bracciole (rolled stuffed meat) *or 2 beef short ribs with bones

About 12 or so meatballs  *




Using a large size pot add about 2 Tbls of olive oil, sliced onion salt to taste. Sautee the onion until brown and remove from the oil. In that oil you will brown all of the meat except the meatballs. Brown all of the meat turning all on all sides including the bracciole. Once browned, add ½ cup (or so) of red wine, reduce the wine down a bit. Remove the bracciole (they are more delicate and could break apart I take them out and add them later along with the meat balls).


At this point with the rest of the meat in the pot, add the tomato puree. Depending on what kind you use you might need to add water you want a smooth liquidy (not watery) base because remember its going to cook about 2 hours or so. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer.


After the sauce has cooked about an hour add in the meatballs and bracciole and bring again to a boil. After it comes to a boil again add a ½ teaspoon of baking soda, it will fizz and bubble, stir it around and let the sauce keep cooking ( this removes the acidy taste .. it is the family secret … you do not put sugar or carrots or anything else in the sauce to make it sweet – you put baking soda.  After about two hours of cooking taste the sauce on some bread – if its still acidy add a little more baking soda let it come back to a boil and cook some more.


The sauce is usually done in 2 ½ hours, it should be thick and taste cooked, I can tell because usually the oil from the meat comes to the top. I always skim that oil out and do not use (some people keep it in but its not necessary for taste and it is unnecessary fat.




4 to 6 slices of top round of beef

Salt and pepper

Grated romano cheese


Garlic cloves

Parsley (fresh)

Optional raisins or hard-boiled egg


Place the slices on a wooden cutting board or work area. Sprinkle with salt pepper and grated cheese, Add one ½ slice of bacon to each slice, one clove of garlic and some parsley. Roll and secure with tooth picks.




1 pounds of ground beef .. can use 90% lean but 95 is prob too dry

1 egg

¼ cup + 1 TBLS Seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (I like Progresso)

¼ cup Grated Romano cheese

1 tsp. (scant) Salt

5 saltine crackers crushed and moistened from water


Put meat in a large mixing bowl, add egg, salt cheese and breadcrumbs, then crush the crackers in your hand and moisten under the faucet. They should be mushy. Add to the mixture. You want the mixture to be stiff enough to roll into meatballs but not too dry. If too dry add another egg or a little water, if too wet add more breadcrumbs.


Roll into balls maybe about an inch or so in size (giant meatballs only sell in restaurants you want normal size meatballs) You then want to brown the meatballs in a frying pan with a small amount of oil. They don’t need to be cooked thru, in fact should not (except for the one you have to share with your dog because it smells so good) Set aside and add to the sauce after the sauce has cooked for an hour.


Makes about 18 meatballs.

Here is Wendy on Virginia This Morning making the sauce! Enjoy!