Chef John's Sunday Pasta Sauce


This sauce goes by many names, including Sunday sauce, since that's the day it's traditionally made, but for me growing up, this was just called 'sauce.' As long as you cook the meat long enough, and season thoughtfully, there's really no way this sauce isn't going to be great. So, while you may not have grown up in an Italian-American home, with this comforting sauce simmering on the stove every Sunday, your family still can. Serve the sauce over pasta and top with the tender meat.

Prep Time:
30 mins
Cook Time:
4 hrs 20 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 50 mins
10 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 1 (1 inch thick) slice beef shank

  • 2 pounds pork spareribs

  • 2 bone-in chicken thighs

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 pinch salt

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 3 (28 ounce) cans crushed Italian (plum) tomatoes (such as San Marzano)

  • 2 cups water, divided

  • ¼ cup tomato paste

  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

  2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place beef, pork, and chicken in pan and turn to coat with olive oil.

  3. Roast in the preheated oven until meat is well browned, 20 to 30 minutes.

  4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir onion with a pinch of salt in hot oil until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  5. Pour crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water, and tomato paste into onion mixture. Add roasted beef, pork, and chicken to tomato sauce mixture.

  6. Pour remaining 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan, and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour roasting pan water mixture into tomato mixture. Stir Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Italian parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes into tomato sauce; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until sauce reduces and meat is tender, about 4 hours. Transfer meat to a dish. Adjust sauce seasonings to taste.

    close up view of pasta with Pasta Sauce garnished with cheese and fresh herbs in a white bowl, with sausage in a white baking dish and bread in the background
    Chef John

Cook's Note:

Any canned tomato product will work. If using whole canned tomatoes, pour them into a large bowl and crush them with your hands.


The nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of the beef, pork, and chicken. The actual amount of meat consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

339 Calories
20g Fat
20g Carbs
23g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 10
Calories 339
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 71mg 24%
Sodium 916mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 23g
Vitamin C 26mg 128%
Calcium 137mg 11%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 986mg 21%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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