Old School Italian Meat Sauce

Paleo chef Melissa says “although this recipe is a tiny bit of a project, it rewards you with enough tender, succulent meat to last for several meals—and it can be frozen, too, so you can defrost Italian love anytime you need a food hug. The balsamic vinegar gives the slow-simmered sauce just the right zing, and pork chops, Italian sausage, and beef meatballs infuse the sauce with flavor while, in turn, taking on the tang of tomato and garlic.”


  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 1 1/2 pounds pork chops (bone in or boneless)

  • salt and ground black pepper

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (chicken, turkey, or pork)

  • 2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)

  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 2/3 cup beef broth

  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, slivered

  • 2 tablespoons warm water

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/2 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 pound ground pork or turkey

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian herb blend

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  1. Brown the meats. Heat coconut oil in a large, deep pot. Sprinkle the pork chops with salt and pepper, then brown them on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chops from the pot and place in a bowl to catch the juices. Brown the whole sausage links in the same pot, about 10 minutes, and place in the bowl with the pork chops.
  1. Make the sauce. You’re going to make the sauce in the same pot, so add a little coconut oil if there’s no fat left in the pan. Cook the onions with the oregano until they’re very soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cocoa. Sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  1. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir, about 1 minute. Add the broth and crushed tomatoes; stir to combine. Nestle the pork chops and sausage into the sauce. Bring to a robust bubble, then cover and simmer, 2 hours. Meanwhile…
  1. Prep the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400F and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. In a small bowl, mix the water, baking soda and cream of tartar with a fork until combined. Crumble the beef and pork into a large bowl, then add the garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, parsley, salt, Italian herb blend, red pepper flakes, and water/baking soda. Mix well with your hands (or if you want it very smooth, with a food processor or mixer) until combined.
  1. Cook the meatballs. Measure 1 tablespoon of the meat and roll into a ball. Line up the meatballs on the baking sheet, then bake 20 minutes, until browned.
  1. The final steps. When the sauce has reached its 2-hour simmer deadline, add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer an additional 15 minutes, uncovered. Remove the sauce from the heat and toss in the fresh basil, then taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
  1. If you used bone-in pork chops, the meat could fall right off the bones; you might need to liberate them from the sauce (lest you choke a dining companion). Ladle the sauce over a pile of Zucchini Noodlesor Roasted Spaghetti Squash and top with a little of each kind of meat. Mange!

Recipe courtesy of Melissa Joulwan, author of the cookbooks Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat (http://amzn.to/NGfMcv), Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat (http://amzn.to/GZDvq6), and the blog Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed (http://www.meljoulwan.com). Photo by David Humphreys.


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