Family Traditions

I realize this is a departure from my normal dessert posts, but I feel this recipe needs to be shared. Family recipes hold such a special place in my heart. When I think of family recipes, I think of my grandparents, Nana and Bunka, and their homemade pasta sauce and meatballs.

I have such fond memories rolling meatballs with my Nana. Elbow-deep in the meat mixture, my siblings and I would roll meatballs with my grandmother, constantly asking if they were the right size or if we could toss them into the sauce yet. My meatballs were never as perfect as my Nana’s (and still aren’t even close), but her support and encouraging words made me feel like a pro.

Every Thanksgiving weekend, my family has the tradition of spending Friday afternoon watching a movie and coming home to an Italian feast. My grandparents prepare homemade pasta, tomato sauce, meatballs, sausages, and bracioles for the entire family to enjoy. It’s debatable whether I look forward to this dinner more than the tradition turkey dinner. Either way, this is always a tasty weekend I look forward to the whole year.

I remember in elementary school, I would open the door after a long day of school and smell the sweet tomato sauce boiling away on the stove. No matter what kind of day I had at school, I knew it was about to improve vastly. To this day, just the smell of this sauce instantly puts me in a better mood.

This is a beloved family favorite that I’m sure your loved ones will enjoy just as much! For a taste of Italy, and a taste of family tradition, I recommend you try this dish.

Nana’s Pasta Sauce

Source: my wonderful grandparents


4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons sugar

1 large can crushed tomatoes

2 large cans whole tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup good red wine

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons dry basil

1/2 tablespoon dry oregano

1 tablespoon dry parsley

1/2 tablespoon dry rosemary

1/2 tablespoon dry thyme

2 bay leaves


1. In a large pot, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until soft.

2. Add 1 cup of beef broth and the sugar. Add all the cans of tomatoes. Break up any large pieces. I used an immersion blender. You could transfer batches into a blender or simply use a knife to break up the whole tomatoes.

3. Fill an empty tomato can 1/2 way full with water, add to sauce. Add tomato paste in order to achieve desired thickness.

4. Add all of the dry seasonings, salt, and pepper.

5. Stir the red wine into the sauce. At this point, you can add more beef broth if you need to. Lower the temperature to simmer. Now you can add the meatballs. Cover and simmer 2-3 hours. Serve over your choice of pasta.

6. You can refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.


Source: my wonderful grandparents


1 pound ground chuck

2 large eggs

1/4 – 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

2 cups fresh bread crumbs (use any bread you have on hand. I usually use normal white bread. This time, I used extra hot dog buns)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Optional – I used the same dried spices in the meatballs that I used in the sauce. Feel free to add all of the above or any combination.


1. Add meat, eggs, fresh bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and spices (optional) into a medium bowl. Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients together until well incorporated, keeping in mind to handle the mixture gently.

2. Add enough dried bread crumbs in order for the meatballs to hold their shape.

3. Carefully form into 1- to 2-inch balls. Add to the sauce and allow to simmer for up to two hours.



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