Paolozzi Meat Sauce
For as long as I can remember, my mother has made Meat Sauce every Sunday. A recipe handed down from my Grandma Paolozzi. In fond memory of my dear grandmother, I call it “Paolozzi Meat Sauce”.
I’m not normally very wordy with my recipes. I believe they should be tasty, functional, fuss free and to the point. However, Paolozzi Meat Sauce, has been a Sunday staple throughout my childhood and stayed with me into adulthood. I cook it regularly for my own family who love it equally as much. My brother also makes this dish for his family. I’m sure he will have his own slight variation, just as mine may vary slightly from my Mother’s recipe as will my Mother’s to my Grandmother’s. The basics are the same though – they all taste just as fabulous!
Don’t be limited by a recipe, you need to adapt to what ingredients you can find. For example, the type of Chorizo you use or whether you can find a good fresh Italian sausage or not, just use whatever is available to you and improvise.
I would consider this dish as my ultimate comfort food. To fully appreciate what memories this dish holds for me I have to give you a brief back story on the dish, which involves telling you a little about my maternal side of the family – the Italian half!
Paolozzi Meat Sauce History
You will find, most regions in Italy will have their own version of Paolozzi Meat Sauce and is sometimes referred to as Sunday Sauce, Sunday Gravy, or as we call it, Meat Sauce or Paolozzi Meat Sauce!
My version, Paolozzi Meat Sauce, originates from a small village called “Colle San Magno“, in the Lazio region of Italy, not far South of Rome. My grandparents emigrated from here in the early nineteen twenties. They left their home village, family and friends in search of a better life, like so many other in those days. They were headed for Canada (where many relative still live today) but their travels were cut short due to lack of funds and ended up settling in Dewsbury, in the North of England. Fortunate for me, otherwise I would not be writing this today!
As is true of many immigrants, they were very entrepreneurial and hard working and with an ever growing family to support they eventually found themselves doing what Italians do best – Ice-cream! However, by January 1940, food rationing came into force, banning the production of ice-cream and my family chose to do the next best thing Italians do best – Fish & Chips!
I’ve been told people came from miles to eat my Gran’s beef dripping Fish & Chips at Moorside Fisheries. The Chip shop still stands today, Moorside Fisheries can be found at 45 Heckmondwike Road, Dewsbury. I can’t guarantee they still fry their fish & chips in beef dripping though!
In 1947, after the ice-cream making ban was lifted, my grandad bought a fleet of ice-cream vans in Todmorden (pictured above, before the name was changed from Neil’s to Paolozzi’s). The four eldest children moved from Dewsbury to Todmorden to run the new ice-cream business, whilst my grandparents and mother (the youngest of five) stayed a while longer in Dewsbury to wrap up the fish & chip shop business. A couple of years later they bought a sweet shop and a cafe as well as continuing to manage their ever expanding fleet of ice-cream vans. Paolozzi’s ice-cream became renowned to generations of local families.
I loved visiting my Grandma’s rambling, double, end terrace house. She lived with my late Uncle Joe and my Auntie Rita (pictured above, age 27). Auntie Rita will turn 92 this Summer.
There were several spare rooms used for storing stock which I loved exploring. Upstairs, next to the bathroom, was a particularly aromatic room, the tobacco room, with it’s sickly sweet aroma of exotic and far away lands. Then there was the attic, reached by a narrow staircase which was full of our toys. My brother and I would spend hours there, re-discovering our long forgotten toys. Another memorable area, was the damp and cold back-yard which was filled with chest freezers containing tubs of freshly churned Paolozzi ice-cream and lollies. Heaven to a child, right?
The fun didn’t end there! We always got to visit whichever Aunt or Uncle was working their shift in the sweet shop, either Auntie Rita, Uncle Joe, Uncle Ben and Auntie Dot. We’d sit there ever so quietly in the confined space, trying not to get under anyone’s feet, all in the hope of getting a few sweeties to take home!
I could talk endlessly about our visits to Todmorden, I loved the fact we had so many relatives living in this town and my Grandma’s house was always a hub of activity with all the local Italian community dropping by to say hello. I was constantly amused by their interesting Italian/Lancashire accents!
We would generally visit my Grandma’s on a Sunday afternoon. They would eat their lunch early at 11am (a habit from when they worked shifts in the family businesses). We used to turn up later in the afternoon to a light lunch of soup and sandwiches, or a quiche followed by home baked cakes. I never fancied the sandwiches and cakes and would make up excuses for popping into the kitchen, where there was nearly always a large pot of pasta with Paolozzi Meat Sauce on the stove (leftovers from their Sunday lunch). I would sneakily take a fork, and scoop out as many of those delicious meat sauce covered macaronis (as my gran called them) as I possibly could. I’d stuff my face then head back to the table content! Not sure if anyone got wind of my antics!
I could never understand why we were never offered the same lunch they’d eaten – maybe they thought it was too simple and rustic for us!
I associate this dish with Sunday because we visited my Grandma on Sundays and my Mother always cooked this dish on a Sunday too. It now just seems right to eat it on a Sunday! Also, historically, Sunday Meat Sauce is so called because the meat would be left cooking slowly in the sauce whilst the villagers attended Sunday Mass. By the time they returned home, the meat would be perfectly cooked and tender. The meat would be taken out of the sauce and served separately and the sauce served over the pasta as a starter (primi piatti). The meat would follow after as the second course (secondi piatti).
Paolozzi Meat Sauce
Use chuck steak, quite a tough cut of meat from the shoulder of the cow. Try to choose a nicely marbled piece for extra flavour and tenderness once cooked. Chuck used to be a cheap cut of beef, ideal for slow cooking and stewing, but due to recent trends the cheaper cuts have also now become more expensive! A nice firm chorizo is ideal and if you can find it, and fresh Italian sausage really makes the dish extra special.
This is not a quick recipe to make, it take time to prepare and time to cook. It’s therefore worth while making a large batch and freezing some for another time. I use about 1kg chuck steak, four (425g) tins of tomatoes and 1 jar (700ml) of passata which yields 3-4 meals (depending on your servings). We eat one on the day it’s cooked and the other portions go in the freezer for another Sunday.
Add about 2 tbs olive oil to a large solid based pan (I use a large stock pot). When hot add your meat, in batches, starting with the pork mince or fresh Italian Sausage (if using). The Pork, especially, mince, may release some extra fats. Ideally, remove these fats before continuing with the browning of the Chorizo and the Chuck steak. You may need to add more olive oil for browning the rest of the meat. Set aside the browned meat on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
In the same pan, add a little more oil, if needed, add the onion and celery and sweat for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the meaty brown bits up from the sides of the pan and incorporate these into the vegetables. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Then add the tomato puree and mix well cooking for a further couple of minutes. Add a couple of glugs of red wine, if using, and stir well, giving the pan a good deglaze, scraping up all those tasty brown bits left behind from the browning of the meat. Let reduce for a few minutes.
After about 5 minutes of cooking the vegetables with the puree and wine, add in your tinned tomatoes and passata. Season and add in plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley.
Now add all the browned meat back to the pot and stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least two hours.
Serve over a large bowl of spaghetti or pasta of your choice with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.
Do you have any recipes that you ate as a child which you still make today?
Would love to know what they are – you can let me know in the comments box below.
- 1 kg of chuck steak nicely marbled and cut into 2" cubes
- 500 g Fresh Italian sausage otherwise use 500g minced pork (or both!)
- 150 g of Chorizo firm is best, 1 stick
- 850 g tinned plum tomatoes 2 tins
- 700 g passata 1 jar
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 celery stick chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- A couple of glugs of red wine optional
- large bunch of parsley
- salt & freshly ground black pepper to season
- Parmesan to serve
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy based pan.
Brown your selection of meats, starting with the pork mince then set aside.
Remove any extra fats from the pan and add more olive oil if required and start to brown the chuck steak in batches. Don't overcrowd the pan otherwise they won't brown. brown in batches until a nice nutty brown colour, then set aside on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Brown the sliced chorizo and set aside.
Add the onion & celery to the same pan and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook for a further minute then add the tomato puree. The idea is the vegetables soak up all the lovely flavoured chuck steak & chorizo flavoured oil.
Add the red wine, if using, and deglaze your pan by scraping down the sides with a wooden spoon, incorporating all those tasty brown bits created during the meat browning stage.
Let this concentrated sauce reduce for a couple of minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes and passata.
Return the browned meat back to the pan and stir well.
Add plenty of chopped parsley and season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for at least 2 hours.
Serve over pasta of your choice with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.