Friday Night dinners were a staple of my childhood.   They seem to be a common occurrence within very large, very Italian families.

Friday Night dinners were held at my Uncle Al’s, in the city of Troy, NY.  He had a small apartment that held more VHS tapes than a blockbuster, a computer that could have taken over the world in a bad 80’s movie, and paintings which where probably the first boobs most of my male cousins ever saw.

Spaghetti sauces is something that is inherently Italian.  Every Italian family I’ve known or worked with has their own recipe and their own secrets.  Some like sweet sauce some swear hot sausage is the key ingredient, and still others hide their secrets in old handwritten recipes stuck in bibles.

My Uncle Al spent months living in Italy during his adult life. He lived in the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere.  My mother has an address to one of his friends there, as well as photos of him looking like the inspiration for Austin Powers. We like to joke about how he could have been a spy, and certainly this picture argues for the Mike Myers character. As does as his eternal bachelor status despite hand written love letters from an unnamed Italian woman.

In his time in Italy he lived above a restaurant.  I like to think this sauce recipe has some sort of influence from there since it is the mother country, and this sauce makes generations dream of traveling to Italy and experiencing the influences Uncle Al had on his life.

The large tins of olive oil we inherited from him are drained (mostly my doing) but my mother was still willing to teach me the recipe.  She had him teach her one day years ago when his health was declining and we all feared losing the ability to have a Uncle Al meatball ever again in our lives (it was a terrifying thought).  And though our attempts will never have the same impact as those dinners on TV tables and the brown carpet in his apartment, it is certainly a nice tribute to be able to share the love that comes with a large Italian dinner.

We started with grocery shopping at 10 in the morning and followed the steps compiled from her hand written directions, his typed instructions.  My little sister was lucky enough to have a snow day, so we had all three of the women of our family for the task.

And then we invited everyone.  My little brother had several friends over, I brought eight starving college students, and our family of five gathered and raved about the meatballs.  And we all put ourselves in food comas.

Uncle Al’s Sauce Recipe


7 28oz cans tomato puree

4 6oz cans tomato paste (roasted garlic)


Parsley flakes

4 or 5 bay leaves

5 or 6 full garlic cloves

Garlic powder



¼ cup Parmesan or Romano grated cheese

Olive oil

3 chicken quarters

2 Veal chops

Italian bread- cut off crust and let sit out and get stale the night before


  1. In a large pot, cover bottom with olive oil
  2. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes in very low- don’t burn
  3. Add all cans tomato puree, fill cans ¼ way with water and pour into saucepan. Add salt and pepper
  4. Cook until it boils with top on. Stir every 5 minutes (it takes about 40 minutes) turn down.
  5. Simmer one hour.
  6. Take crust off Italian bread, cut in quarters
  7. Open tomato paste, take out of cans and put in refrigerator on a plate
  8. Add bay leaves, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder to taste
  9. Simmer one hour
  10.  Add tomato paste
  11. Simmer one hour
  12. Soak bread in water 20 minutes.  Then squeeze out and leave in colander
  13. Add chicken to sauce. Simmer 45 minutes.
  14. While this is simmering make hamburger.
  15. Break up 1/3 hamburger, 1/3 bread. Add salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, parsley, and cheese.
  16. Repeat 2 times
  17. Then mix all the hamburger and put in refrigerator. After 45 minutes take chicken out and put veal in for 45 minutes.
  18. Start making meatballs out of meat mixture.
  19. Fry the meatballs in a pan
  20. Take veal out, put meatballs in sauce

Cook 1½ hours.  Enjoy