Recipe: Cousin Alfred’s Meat Sauce

When I ask my mother how I’m related to Cousin Alfred, the answer usually goes:

“Well…” and then there’s a  contemplative silence. I can see her running through all our different relations, high up on the family tree, doing mental gymnastics to connect one branch to another.

Eventually, she comes out with “I think he’s my mothers, mother’s cousin’s”… and then, either she trails off, or my attention span wanes because, really, all that matters is that he is family, one way or another.

Alfred lived until he was 104 years old. I think much of his long life was due to making homemade ravioli and meat sauce. He taught me when I was about Ava’s age, or maybe a little younger.

We made his spinach & pork ravioli for Italy and, today, we continue to keep Alfred’s memory alive with this sauce.

Mom made sure to write down his recipe for meat sauce. But the title “meat sauce” doesn’t do it justice. This is meat sauce, yes, but it’s also filled with a half dozen sweet Italian sausages, beautiful minced mushrooms (the fancy kind), and the best tomatoes Italy has to offer. There’s also a richness that comes from the best olive oil you can muster and sweet, sweet onion.

In the end, all these beautiful ingredients cook down into a rich, hearty sauce – enough to fill a very large pot.

Case in point? This represents 1/3 of the sauce over 2 lbs of spaghetti:

Alfreds tomato sauce

Look at Ava! She’s already licking her chops in anticipation!

We shared Alfred’s legacy with our neighbors… guys we’ve affectionately dubbed “the beards.” (We don’t call their girlfriends that, though.

This sauce is a great crowd-pleaser.

Robert here said, upon tasting it, “this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”


Even Ava agrees (Pssst…leave a comment if you see what’s wrong in the picture below!)

Note: There’s something humbling about the fact that I have less motivation than a 104 year old man. Alfred made this tomato sauce with muscle. In those days, the basil leaves were whole in the canned tomatoes, and he plucked them out by hand after simmering. He pureed the tomatoes with a food mill. He ground the meat with a meat grinder. This sauce was an exercise in love, as all cooking is, but more than that, it was his heritage – his taste of the old world. Of Italy.

This is my modernized version. One that relies heavily on a wooden spoon and pre-ground meat.

Makes about 4 quarts


1/2 cup olive oil
2 Bermuda onions, chopped
3/4-1 lb lean ground beef

3, 28 ounce cans of San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes
2, 6 ounce cans of tomato paste
1 ounce dried mushroom blend (porcini’s if available), reconstituted in 1 cup hot water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice or cloves
salt & pepper

6-8 sweet Italian sausages


Fry the chopped onions in a 1/2 cup of olive oil until soft and sweet, then add in the beef and brown it.  While I’m sure you could use whatever onions you want, Alfred specified Bermuda, and we loved their sweet flavor in this recipe.

Pour on the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, the chopped mushrooms, allspice, and nutmeg.

Give everything a stir, then top with the raw sausages. Just plunk them in whole. Alfred says so.

Cover and simmer for 4 hours. the sausages and, when cool enough to handle, slice into half moons. Break up the tomato chunks, if there are any, and stir the sausage back into the sauce.

Ideally, Alfred says you should wait to eat this until the next day so the flavors have time to mingle.  He left his batch of sauce covered, on the counter overnight. I think this would encourage bacterial growth, so I suggest you refrigerate your sauce overnight.

The next day you’ll have a love story between pasta and sauce.

Oh. And the Parmesan cheese, while purely optional with a sauce this good, is a nice touch.

Enjoy, friends.

Remember to twirl, twirl, twirl that spaghetti.

As round and as beautiful as this stairway.

The double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo for the Vatican Museums 1932. Photo © Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo for the Vatican Museums 1932. Photo © Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0


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  1. Is it because there is pasta on her arm or there is nobody sitting next to her?

  2. OK…I looked it up….Alfred’s mother (Madeline-Aunt Nellie) and my mother’s father (John) were sister and brother..Their parents were both Foppiano (intermarrying seemed to be a trend with the Etruscans) = Stefano and Caterina – came to Boston 1866. Altogether, Stefano & Caterina had 7 children – another of which (Aurelia) is the source of the Faubert branch.
    Now Stefano had 4 brothers…one of which is the source of the Angelo branch of the family.
    So you see, you are much closer to the Alfred Ferretti and Faubert branch, than the Angelo Foppiano(Fred, Robert, Harold, Maryann) branch because you have to go back 3 or 4 generations to make the connection.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Ohhhhh ok! So He was your Great Aunt’s son? on your mother’s side?

      • OMG…this could go on forever…the various ways of describing the same thing
        OR…my 2nd cousin?
        OR…my mother’s first cousin
        OR…your 3rd cousin?
        OR…OR…OR… Maybe I’ll move to ORegon

        The Faubert’s are also 7 siblings strong: Ray, Rich, Rbt, Marie, Louise, Joan, Martha. Ray is Elisa’s Godfather….standing invitation to visit him Guadalahara (I’m waiting for someone to go with me). Marie is a sister of St Joseph (Sr Miriam de Lourdes) teaches at St Thomas University in Houston…You know about Richie & Janet. Robert was a Jesuit…but left to get married – he’s thrilled about the new Jesuit Pope..etc etc

  3. What’s wrong with the picture?…She’s slurping instead of twirling…

  4. I cook my nan’s custard, with evaporated milk. It’s divine!

  5. What’s wrong with the picture? Spaghetti on Ava’s arm?? And I will be cooking this one, too!!!

  6. Ava’s noodle she is eating has no trace of pasta sauce on it.

  7. Ahhh…. I’ve got it…. there is a noodle hanging off Ava’s arm!!

  8. Rick Scott says:

    It’s obvious that your catchy writing style is from your mother’s side of the family. (Thanks for all the fun reads, Mom.)

    And that daughter of yours will be a star performer when she grows up. The center of attention–as if she wasn’t already.

    All in all, a lovely family. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • Thank you. Wish we knew more about you – and others who have graced this blog with their pearls – you could be from Timbucktoo for all we know…or from right in our own backyard.

      • Rick Scott says:

        Never even visited Timbucktoo (Spellcheck wants to change that to Bucktooth.) I leave world traveling to your daughter, who manages to bring back such treasures from afar. My venue is Ventura California about 60 miles west of Los Angeles. People sometimes say north, but it’s actually west. My house is only 900 sq. feet but I can see the Pacific Ocean out the back door. Heaven on earth after decades spent in frigid Minnesota. A lovely state but too cold for too long each year. Retired, living with my cat and way too much time on my hands. Hence rambling replies like this. And thanks for asking.

        • aunty eileen says:

          “rambling”, Rick? I don’t think so according to the definitions I just read. And, anyway… I think that word ‘rambling’ is used to indicate something negative. I like your messages and I like your style of writing.

          MW on-line dictionary says for the word ‘ramble': “without a specific goal, purpose, or direction”. “to go from one subject to another without any clear purpose or direction”. I love studying words. Actually, I never liked the word ramble. But, in this case relating you deciding you ‘ramble’, I don’t think you do as a reader of your words. You have clear specific goal, purpose and direction and you know how to say much without using a lot of words (unlike me). :-) I have tons of things I would love to share and I have tons of notes, I do declare…. but, I am a person that would definitely need a ‘ghost-writer’ for helping to keep the purpose and direction and goal perfectly clear! I think you have a gift for writing and since you get a bit bored at times… maybe you could help me organize everything into ‘something’??? :-)

          And I found this: According to contributors on ‘wiki': all we don’t need to know but might like to know about the town of Timbuktu – (“formerly also spelled Timbuctoo and Timbuktoo”) And now all this is making me want to also look-up and study the word ‘bucktooth’. Another common word/phrase we would hear now and then growing up. (“First use in English; 1550, from buck(ed), perhaps on the notion of “kicking up.” In French, buck teeth are called dents à l’anglaise, literally, “English teeth.”). Cheers!

          • aunty eileen says:

            Sorry, I guess that would make me the ‘ghost’ and you would be the writer (I never did like that word ‘ghostwriter’) OR it could/should be a collaborative effort. Ok? definition of ghostwriter: “One who writes for and gives credit of authorship to another.” Well, I think definition should only be allowed to be: One who writes and states authorship to a totally fictitious person… or deceased person (which in the later case, I would think would illegal) :-)

          • Rick Scott says:

            Thanks for the kind words, Eileen. (I won’t ask how that Irish name entered the lineage. You seem to have a bit of everything in the family.)

            Effective writing is really quite simple. It’s a two-step process guided by three rules. The first step is the fun part, and the rule is: Write down what you want to say. Don’t hold back. Let free flow take over. The second step is editing. The first rule of editing is never send out a first draft. Edit everything you write. The second rule of editing covers the process: It’s always a matter of subtraction, not addition. Resist the urge to add more examples and asides. Instead, get rid of confusing words, excess sentences, too many examples and add-on’s. That should leave you making the point you want to make without hiding that very important tree in a wilderness of words and images.

            If you follow these rules, your finished piece will be shorter than your original draft. Not always, but most of the time Checking if you’ve arrived at that shorter version is a good test of effective editing.

            See if those steps work for you before looking for a ghost writer/editor. Good luck with your writing.

            • aunty eileen says:

              ah, Rick! “effective” writing and the steps you suggest! Brilliant! I do like that important word “effective”. I am glad you have revealed what I thought/saw was true. Now I wonder if you are a writer of your thoughts and what your interest of writing is.

              I know I am not capable of being a writer and actually have no interest in attempting… I consider myself more of a ‘planter-of–seeds’ with the hopes my little 2-cent contribution of seeds, at times, will help with creating a good-harvest. Thanks to the internet and the wonderful invention of a keyboard, I am able to ‘Let free flow take over”, when someone or something inspires me to speak/type. I am too much of a perfectionist and not gifted for being a writer. What I do like doing is critiquing and finding things that are “effective” for good… and for good/lasting! :-) I do a lot of speed-reading and hop-skip-and-jump-reading… I usually can find some little ‘treasure’ or maybe even a lot of treasures in a book or article, etc. I love books, own many… but, in my life-time, I have only read a few books, every word from beginning to end.

              Well Rick, you won’t ask… but I will say: my mother must of had a crystal ball when I was born and saw that I would be marrying an Irish man….. :-)

              Thank you Rick for your wise tips regarding writing and I will copy them and study/think about them. Cheers!

  9. whats wrong in that picture? I thought it was the silverware setting pairing the spoon and fork, but I never could get that right myself.

  10. All I want to say is I love your pictures and I love the sauce! Speaking from an Italian who knows the cousin (or is it Aunt?… I thought cousin, 2 twice removed??) and knows her sausage (my company Mulay’s Sausage)… keep cooking and using those amazing ingredients! Can I call when I am in town and bring the sausage for dinner?


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