Slow-Cooked Sunday Sauce with Sausages and Meatballs

This is a sauce that you can make ahead, when you have some downtime (like Sunday). Then when you’re ready to make dinner, just cook off a pound of pasta and reheat the sauce. I like to have this with a hearty cut like bucatini, pici, or linguine. To serve, I reheat the sauce and meats, then I arrange all of the meat on a platter. Once the pasta is cooked, I drain it, toss it with a couple tablespoons of butter, half of the sauce, and a handful each of pecorino and Parm. Put all of the pasta in a bowl, top it with some of the remaining sauce, garnish with a little extra shredded basil and serve that alongside the meat. That way people can have however many meatballs and sausages they want.



  • 1/4 cup EVOO, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 large cloves garlic, shaved thin
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 fresh red Italian cherry pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Leaves from 1 sprig of marjoram or oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • 2 (28- or 32-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)
  • 2 cups tomato passata or tomato puree
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves


  • 4 links hot Italian sausage
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage


  • Natural olive oil spray
  • 1 1/2 pounds meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork, and veal combined)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
  • 2 slices (1 inch thick) stale white bread, crusts trimmed
  • Milk, for soaking the bread
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper


Make the sauce: In a large Dutch oven, heat the EVOO (4 turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seeds and stir for a minute. Stir in the garlic, onion, bay leaf, chile, marjoram, thyme, and parsley. Let that cook out over medium-low heat until the onion is nice and tender. Then add the tomato paste and stir that for a minute until fragrant. Stir in the wine, then add the whole tomatoes, passata, and basil. Bring it to a bubble and simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, fill a saucepan with a little bit of water and a drizzle of EVOO. Add the sausages and bring to a boil. As the water boils away, the sausages cook through and then you crisp the casings in the olive oil. Add the cooked sausages to the simmering sauce to cook for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with a little bit of natural olive oil spray. In a large bowl, combine the meatloaf mix, parsley, sage, and fennel. Soak the bread in some milk, then squeeze it dry and crumble it between your fingertips as you add it to the meatball mixture. Add the cheeses, a healthy drizzle of EVOO, and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently but thoroughly combine. Roll into 2- to 2 1/2-inch meatballs. Place them on the baking sheet and roast until they get a nice crust on the outside but are not cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes. Drop the meatballs into the sauce to let them finish cooking through.

Let the sauce cool completely and refrigerate until whichever night you’re ready to serve the spaghetti. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

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