This fabulous Slow-Braised Sunday sauce requires only 30 minutes of hands-on time and will transform your kitchen into a fragrant Italian trattoria!
If you've never heard of Sunday Sauce, you're in for an incredible Italian dinner treat! I've served this several times over the past few weeks, first to Scott then to family and friends. Everyone has given it a huge thumbs up. Our 7 year-old grandson, Hayes
said exclaimed, after he finished the meal, "This is ten out of five stars" (a fun, funny, sweet boy)!
Sunday sauce, aka...
What is Sunday sauce? New York Times Cooking explains it like this; "In many Italian American households, Sunday means there’s red sauce simmering all day on the stove. "It might be called sauce, sugo or gravy, and surely every family makes it differently, but the result is always a tomato sauce rich with meat."
The meat varies from family to family and chef to chef as well. Sometimes it's made with meatballs, sausage, pork, beef, spare ribs, brisket, oxtail, veal or a combination of these meats. Other ingredients can also differ but the common denominator is tender meat nestled in a rich, flavorful tomato sauce.
I start my Sunday Sauce with a couple of strips of smoky bacon for a delicious flavor foundation. The recipe also includes well-marbled chuck (beef roast), fire-roasted crushed and diced tomatoes, tiny diced onion, carrot and celery as well as lots of herbs, bay leaves and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
As the title suggests this Sunday Sauce gets a long slow stint in a low oven so it's best to make on a day that you will be hanging around the house. The hands-on time is well under an hour but the low, slow oven is where the magic happens as the beef and veggies get meltingly tender as they simmer away in the delicious herbed tomato sauce.
Chop, chop, chop!
The most time-consuming hands-on work for this Sunday Sauce is chopping the onion, carrots and celery. You want a small dice for this recipe so the veggies end up "melting" into the sauce in the oven. That can take a while but I've got a solution that will speed things up!
If you've been following The Café for any amount of time, you know that I LOVE my Vidalia Chop Wizard and use it ALL the time. Chopping the veggies for this Sunday Sauce recipe can be done lickety-split with this little kitchen workhorse. I use it so much that I had my daughter-in-law, Lindsay create a video to demonstrate how this little gadget works. We call it "The Ridiculously Easy Way to Chop Veggies" and you'll understand what we mean when you see it in action:
This is NOT a sponsored post. I just love to share this time-saving device as I know that all of our lives are busy! And there's no need to buy one of the fancy models. The chopper I linked above is reasonably priced, simple, stores easily and is dishwasher-safe.
How to serve this Sunday Sauce
The traditional way to serve Sunday Sauce is over pasta. A wider pasta like fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle is ideal but any pasta will be delicious. I love the fresh pasta that's available at most larger grocery stores in the dairy section. The brand I find most frequently is Buitoni. It's tender, delicious and cooks quickly. (Again, this is not a sponsored post - I just really like it!)
You can also serve this Sunday Sauce over polenta.
Although I love pasta, parmesan polenta might be my favorite pairing with this Sunday Sauce. I'll be sharing a super easy Oven Parmesan Polenta recipe coming up, so stay tuned!
Another idea for this Sunday Sauce is to make sandwiches. Get a loaf of good French or Italian bread and some Mozzarella or Fontina cheese. Slice the bread horizontally, add a layer of the sauce and top with the cheese. Heat in the oven until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melty. Serve with a simple green salad... delish!
Ten out of five stars
If you're looking for an easy, make-ahead, crowd-pleasing, crazy delicious dinner idea, look no further. Don't be surprised when your family and friends describe it as "ten out of five stars"!
Cafe Tips for making this Slow-Braised Sunday Sauce
- This recipe calls for a chuck roast (aka pot roast) that weighs around 3 pounds (1.26kg). Look for a roast that's fairly lean with some nice marbling. Marbling means it has specks or veins of intramuscular fat that dissolve during the slow cooking process and create super tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat.
- I like to use fire-roasted crushed and diced tomatoes for this Sunday Sauce. Fire-roasted simply means that the tomatoes are charred over an open fire to create an additional layer of wonderful flavor. The charring also gives the tomatoes a deeper color. I like the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes from Trader Joe's.
- If you can't find fire-roasted tomatoes, no worries. Just use regular crushed and diced tomatoes.
- This is a perfect recipe to make ahead for easy entertaining. It's one of those dishes that seems to get better and better as the flavors have a chance to meld and marry. You can make this 3-5 days in advance then just re-warm it slowly before serving.
- Another great quality of this Sunday Sauce is that it freezes well so you can make it several weeks in advance. Take it out the day before and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator then just warm it over low heat before serving.
- If you don't have a day when you'll be a home for a whole morning or afternoon, you could make this recipe in a slow cooker. You would need to prep it on the stovetop though, through step 8 below in the recipe. Bring the mixture to a simmer, as instructed but then add the sauce to the slow cooker instead of placing the pot into the oven. Nestle the browned meat in the sauce. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until the meat is fall-apart-tender.
- This recipe calls for one cup of dry red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc are all good choices. It's best to not use "cooking wine" as they are cheap wines that are overwhelmingly salt. You don't need an expensive wine but rather something you enjoy drinking as there will be over two-thirds of a bottle remaining.
- One unusual ingredient in this Sunday Sauce is a small pinch of baking soda. You won't know it's there but a bit of baking soda helps balance the acid in the tomatoes.
- This recipe calls for a "Parmesan rind". It's an optional ingredient so no worries if you don't have one or don't have access to one. A Parmesan rind is exactly what it sounds like, the outer protective edge of a wheel of Parmesan. It's edible but is too tough to chew so it's often tossed out. Save your rinds! A rind from a good Parmesan can add a delicious layer of flavor used in simmering soups and sauces (like this Sunday Sauce). You can save the rinds from your Parmesan in the freezer till you need them. You can also purchase Parmesan rinds from stores like Whole Foods and Fresh Market.
Thought for the day:
Yet for us, there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things
and through whom we exist.
1 Corinthians 8:6
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 3 pounds well-marbled boneless chuck roast cut into 6-7 pieces
- 2 slices smoky thick-cut bacon We love Nueske’s. You can find it at the meat counter at Fresh Markets.
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 large onion cut into small dice, about ¼ inch
- 6 ounces carrots (3 medium) scrubbed and cut into small dice, about ¼ inch
- 2 stalks celery diced in ¼-inch dice
- 6 medium garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 cup dry red wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot Shiraz/Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc are all good choices
- 28 ounces can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 28 ounces cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons dry basil
- 2 medium bay leaves
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt I use Morton's
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- parmesan rind optional
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves packed
Preheat the oven to 300˚F (149˚C).
Season the chuck roast generously on all sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Allow the seasoned meat to sit while you cook the bacon.
Cut bacon slices in half, lengthwise then crosswise into ½ inch pieces. In a large Dutch oven set over medium heat cook the bacon until golden and crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a large plate or bowl, leaving the grease in the pan.
Cook the beef (in two batches so it’s not crowded) over medium-high heat in the bacon grease for 5-6 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. The bacon grease should sizzle as you cook the beef but not spatter all over the stovetop. Adjust the heat as needed.
When the beef is browned, remove it to the same plate/bowl as the bacon. Repeat with the second batch and remove to the plate.
Add the diced onion, carrots and celery to the pot and reduce the heat slightly. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the red wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently for another 7-8 minutes or until the wine is reduced almost completely. (If it’s taking longer than this, increase the heat but watch it carefully.)
Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dry oregano, dry basil, bay leaves, baking soda and parmesan rind (if using). Add the meat, bacon and any juice that has accumulated back to the pot, making sure the meat is covered with sauce.
Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and place in the oven for 2½ -3 hours or until the beef is fall apart tender.
Discard the Parmesan rind. Remove the chunks of beef to a clean plate. Using two forks pull it apart into bite-size pieces. Return the meat to the pot along with any juices on the plate and the fresh basil. Stir well. Taste and add more kosher salt and pepper, if needed.
Allow the sauce to sit for 20 minutes before serving.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.