Vic’s Tricks To…The Barbara Family Marinara Sauce

Vic’s Tricks To...
by Vic’s Tricks To...
10 servings
2 hr 25 min

Today’s the day you’ve all been waiting for…

Okay, so maybe none of you were “waiting”. But, today, I’m sharing the Barbara’s (yes, that is actually the surname on my mother’s side–it gets confusing) sacred family recipe for our red sauce!

Now I know I previously shared a quick marinara recipe. And don’t get me wrong, I stand by it 100%. But–let me say–that sauce does not hold a candle to the family sauce….but that recipe takes about 3 hours less time…

This is a one-day, all-day kind of recipe. So if you have a free, semi-lazy Sunday just lying around, this is the recipe for you. And holy moly is it worth it.

Now, this is the family recipe, so of course, it has its own quirks and tricks (as promised in the blog title). There’s one notable interesting nuance to the Barbara recipe, which you’ll hear all about later…

Get excited, things are about to get tasty.

But first–a coming-of-age tale:

When I was born, my mother wanted to honor my grandma (s/o to Grandma Jane who taught me this recipe; you put the G in Grandma). She decided to make my middle name, Anne, after my grandma’s middle name.

After I was born, my Grandma Jane held me in her arms as my mom showed her the birth certificate:

“Mother, look at what I have named this most precious of gifts, my daughter whom I just know will grow up to be the most incredibly gifted and–might I say–hilarious cook!”

Okay I took some liberties there…

GJ glances at the piece of paper and says, “Huh, Victoria Anne? Why ‘Anne?'”

My mother responds “Well, I thought it would be nice if I named her after you in some way. Jeez.”

After a long, drawn out breath, my grandma responds…

“My middle name is spelled Ann.”

Yup. That about sums it up. Messed up from the very beginning….

Back to the recipe. Woooooo!!

First, you’re gonna start with your Italian base-ics. Aka the base of every Italian dish–garlic and olive oil.

Get your garlic nice and golden, then add your crushed tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are essential because you want a smooth sauce without it being soup-like.

Now it’s time for some herbs y’all! Italian seasoning is all you really need. But, I love oregano so I throw a little extra of that. Also, not a big basil fan (I know, I know sacrilege Italian). Anyway, just adjust the herbs as you like them.

TASTE AS YOU GO… but know the sauce won’t taste right until you cook out some of the aluminum taste from the can.

While the sauce starts to cook, let’s get to work on my always-favorite-part-of-anything…


In this sauce, I’m bringing in the holy trinity: meatballs, sausage, and braciole. WOO BABY IT’S A PARTY!

Meatballs (the most labor intensive) are first. The family meatballs are made with beef, veal, and pork. Mainly because we all love meat. Plus, they sell them already ground together in the store. How easy! They’re typically labeled “meatloaf” or “meatball” mix. Go figure.

In a large bowl, throw about 2 lbs of the ground meat mix, 2 eggs, and a half a cup of breadcrumbs, a splash of milk, parmesan, and parsley. Mix until BARELY combined. You don’t want overmix this or they’ll be dense (see: hockey pucks) when they’re cooked.

Roll them into your desired ball size(we’re people-pleasers here at Vic’s Tricks) and drop them into a skillet with oil about 2 inches deep.

Apple doesn’t fall far…My Mother- Expert Ball Handler

DO NOT OVERCROWD THE PAN. Not only does it make it almost freakin’ impossible to rotate them, it will steam the middle of the balls and steamed meat is gross.

Vic Trick: make sure your oil is nice and hot before your balls drop, or they’ll stick. 😉

Let the balls brown (about 4-6 mins depending on size) then turn them 180° to fry the other side.

Once your balls are fully browned, remove them from the pan and move them to a plate topped with a paper towel to absorb the grease. Continue until all the balls are done.

salt your balls and enjoy!

Once you eat half...I mean, a few…then throw them into the sauce. Well, don’t literally throw them, the sauce pot is pretty hot by this point…

Using the same pan, brown our 2nd guest to the meat party: the sausages.

Add the sausages straight to the sauce once they are browned. Then, sear off the braciole mmmmm. (I got this one from the local Italian deli, it’s mozzarella and basil wrapped in a flank steak).


Sear the steak, then place the whole steak in the sauce. You will remove the strings and slice after it has cooked in the sauce. Don’t overcook the steak in the pan. This is simply to seal in the juices, the meat will cook in the sauce.

Now–the moment you’ve all been waiting for–The secret step to the Barbara sauce…

Fair warning, this adds quite a few calories to the sauce, but GOSH is it delicious. I’m telling you, this step is what makes the sauce.

Take a small can of tomato paste and empty it out into the pan you’ve been frying your meats in. With a wooden spoon, break up the paste, mixing it with the fond (see: caramelized onions) from the various delicious meats.

Once it’s nice and warmed up, scoop up the tomato paste and add it to the sauce. Now–you don’t want to add all of the leftover oil–but you definitely want some in there 😉.

That’s what makes it extra delicious! All those juices and fats and crunchy bits from the meats of skillet’s past. Mmmmmmm.

Once you’ve added the tomato paste, continue to cook the sauce on low for at least another hour or two. The longer, the better as more time cooks off that aluminum taste from the canned tomatoes and allows your meats to get extra extra tender.


Put this sauce over pasta (duh) or something healthier (see: spaghetti squash). Or… just eat spoonfuls of sauce and meatballs in a bowl. I’m telling you, you’ll find plenty of ways to eat this.

The best part is–while the whole process is somewhat time-consuming–this is the perfect make-once-but-eat-a-million-times meal. The sauce tastes just as good after being frozen, as it does fresh.

Make a large batch, freeze half and eat the half throughout the week. I think you’ll find a way…

Happy Eating!Give it a try and rate this recipe!

Vic’s Tricks To…The Barbara Family Marinara Sauce
Recipe details
  • 10  servings
  • Prep time: 25 Minutes Cook time: 2 Hours Total time: 2 hr 25 min
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  • 10 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, diced
  • 2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lbs of meatball/meatloaf mix (beef, pork, and veal)
  • 2 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • ½ cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of parsley
  • Sweet and/or spicy italian sausage
  • Braciole, any kind (optional)
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic is browned
Add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and italian seasonings then lower to low heat
In a large mixing bowl, combine ground meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and parsley and mix until just combined
Roll into balls of your desired size
In large skillet, heat rest of olive oil (about 2 inches from the bottom of the pan) over medium-high heat and fry the remaining meatballs until just cooked through
Move cooked meatballs to a plate with a paper towel to absorb the oil, then add to sauce
Cook the sausage in the same pan, followed by a searing of the braciole, adding both to the sauce when done
Add the tomato paste to the same pan and cook on high, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan, for about 4 minutes
Add the warmed tomato paste directly to the sauce from the pan, adding a bit of the used oil as well
Cook the sauce on low for another 1-2 hours, or until the canned tomato taste has dissipated
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  • Diane S. Vine Diane S. Vine on Nov 13, 2021



    • Vic’s Tricks To... Vic’s Tricks To... on Nov 13, 2021

      Hi Diane - does the “Print” button located right above the recipe work for you? You can always try my website, too!

  • Diane S. Vine Diane S. Vine on Nov 13, 2021


    THANK YOU, Diane