Mom's Sauce

comments: 75


Oh, hello there! Hello from the land of the loser blogger who never blogs. Andy says thank you very, very much for all of your kind comments about his post. The comments have been so funny lately! We love them — thank you. There is light at the end of several tunnels around here: I might even go outside today. If ever two people and one little dog were in need of a day-long walk in the woods. . . . Where to go? Portlanders, what are your favorite fall walks? Any suggestions?

Now: Would you like some lasagna? This is my mom's lasagna. It's the taste of home, for me. I told Josh and Keely, who came for dinner on Friday, that I couldn't be objective about it in any way. If I had to list words to describe it, "home" would come before "lasagna." It's one of a small handful of things of the present that can cross almost two thousand miles and more than thirty years and take me right back home: The cover of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. An empty pack of Newport cigarettes. The sound of a freight train at night. Humidity, and the smell of mulberries smashed on the sidewalk. The smell of an onion and a clove of garlic sauteing in vegetable oil on an autumn afternoon. That's the beginning of sauce.

Mom's Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pieces of bone-in beef short ribs (Note: Do not omit or substitute these — they are key to this sauce tasting like this sauce. Just sayin.)
1 16-oz. can whole tomatoes (break these up with your hands first, but be careful because they squirt all over the place)
5 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 2-inch pieces
Meatballs (recipe to follow)


1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 egg
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk

Squish all ingredients with hands in large bowl, making sure the breadcrumbs are mixed in well. Take a golf-ball sized blob and squish back and forth between hands about 15 times, then roll in hands to form a ball. Set meatballs aside.

For sauce, in very large pot or Dutch oven, saute onions in oil over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute more. Add short ribs and brown on each side. Add sausage pieces and brown well. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir. Gently add meatballs and stir. Bring to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 2 1/2 or 3 hours, stirring bottom often.

To make the lasagna, just place a layer of cooked lasagna noodles in a 9" x 13" pan, top with with two pounds of whole-milk ricotta cheese (mixed with a giant handful of chopped fresh parsley and two eggs), sprinkle with mozzarella and some sauce, add another layer of noodles, top with more mozzarella, drizzled sauce, and a bit of salt, and bake for 40 minutes or so at 350 degrees F. Serve with a giant glass of ice-cold milk. Mmmm, milk (I know, apparently I am the only adult in the universe who drinks milk with dinner, or asks for a glass of it at fancy Italian restaurants).


Lasagna is a very difficult food to photograph, but you made it look incredibly delicious. Yum!

The short ribs are a different thing. They must really add to the flavor. I'll have to try it sometime.

Monica Eisenberg says: October 26, 2010 at 09:19 AM

I am not a Portlander (sniff...) so I can't advice you on where to go for a walk but my husband and I went to Oregon in September for ten days and totally fell in love with it. I can see how one would have a hard time deciding where to go and what to see because there is sooooo much that is gorgeous, lovely, breathtaking, fun, yummy, interesting, different, and just totally awesome. We loved it in spite of the weather (got lots of fog and rain starting on day 4 of the vacation) but managed to take lost of great pictures. We'd love to go back.

I had 2 children (would have been 3 but one is in school) and a hungry husband standing over my shoulder praying that you put the sauce recipe on here. When I scrolled down and they saw it - dancing began - literally.

I guess I know what I will be making this week :)!!!!

That looks so good. Lasagna and meatballs -- what a perfect combination. (This from a vegetarian. Shhh.)

Fleetwood Mac Rumours is still one of my all-time favourite albums. And that scent of garlic and onions... it is a time warp. So true.

If the rains lets up at all, I'd head to Tyron State Park in Lake Oswego for a walk. Wonderful bark trails through the woods. Towering pine trees overhead. Damp air. Moss and ferns. So refreshing!
Love your lasagna. Sounds perfect for a fall day.

That photo looks delicious and I cannot wait to try your recipe. your post reminded me that I was going to make lasagna tonight and to take the ground turkey out. so thanks!

Woohoo! New recipes from Everyday Food AND Paulson Place before I go grocery shopping tomorrow! Yes! This week is working out fantastically...oh, and guess what?! I spoke to Seth Avett on the phone yesterday when a dear friend spotted him going into Lunchbox Records in Charlotte. Eeeek!
Hugs - Jenny

I don't comment often, but I had to on this one. There are a few things that also bring me back home: pb rice krispies with chocolate and butterscotch on top (the smell of that topping melting is what gets me), acoustic versions of a few oddball songs ("the last unicorn"), and ring of a top-ringing silver bell (my parents owned a restaurant.)

As an adoptive mom, I think of you and your husband often. I hope it's one of the lights at the end of a tunnel. The wait is so very hard. Life is good though and you will look back to this side of the wait later on and see growth and purpose in it. The process there, though, just seems to take forever, lol. Hoping next year's felt cutting photos have little toes, lovies, and pigtails in the background :)

Ooh, the meatballs look good!
As for walks, my favorites are in this order: Tryon, Forest Park, (and a bit out of town) Champoeg

Reading this at 10 am and getting hungry for lasagna! Looks and sounds delicious! You have such a wonderful gift of language--you are able to allow readers to feel, smell, taste whatever you are describing. In answer to your "walk" question, I live next to Mt. Tabor Park, and my dogs and I love to walk through the park daily. It's particularly beautiful at this time of year; you can see the seasons changing throughout the park and the city from the various views offered. Watch for the sun breaks in today's rain, and you may even avoid getting wet!

Katie Christian says: October 26, 2010 at 10:05 AM

I think milk goes with EVERYTHING. Especially saucy italian food. Mmmmm milk indeed!

The windy city is living up to its name today. It smells like wet leaves!
I'm going to try this for Sunday dinner in two weeks because this weekend is Halloween. Thanks for a great new recipe!

Haha! I love drinking milk. It's still my standard drink with breakfast and dinner. Actually, one of the great things about moving to the Netherlands is that it's not at all weird here as everyone still drinks milk as adults.

Having been an adult for one day (just turned 21) I will defend you and say I love milk too! Always at breakfast and almost always at dinner. Can't live without it.

Your post was soo timely .. I've been dying for Lasagna .. but first I have to get over the fact that lasagna noodles don't have ruffles in Europe ( - what's up with that? ).

You're comment about the glass of milk made me laugh. I am not a milk drinker .. unless it's with brownies or ... lasagna ...

Yes, yes, yes to ice-cold milk!! Now as a former dairy farmer and one that still works in the dairy industry...I'm biased, but I also have very solid bone density! ;)

That looks and sounds so awesome.

In Italy, even children don't drink milk, only babies. We took our 5 year old on a tour and they didn't understand when we asked for a glass of milk in a restaurant. They brought WARM milk!

Susie Sears Taylor says: October 26, 2010 at 11:04 AM

I don't like milk unless it is chocolate or in a malt. My cousin, however, loves milk and always orders it in a restaurant. Sometimes the waitress/waiter looks very surprised but more often they smile as if they too like milk. My cousin has beautiful skin and beautiful hair. I don't...go figure.

YAY for milk! Adult milk drinkers UNITE! :)

Also... yay for this recipe -- looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Alicia.

My recipe is labeled "Grandma's Gravy." :)

Hey, I'm a milk drinker too! Funny thing is, I have a glass of wine while "making" dinner, then for dinner, I'll have a glass of milk! Am I the only one who does this?? :)

milk is exactly the perfect beverage for an italian lasagna dinner!

MMM Milk. "Milk does the body good"

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.