Calabrese sauce or sugo alla calabrese as we say in Italy is a delicious and easy Italian meat sauce. A rich and slightly spicy sauce made with different cuts of meat and slow-cooked until tender and juicy. An excellent and adaptable dish for a cozy and cold night.
This sauce is commonly made in Calabria, a region in the south of Italy and it is typically served on Sunday lunch. As you may know, every region in Italy has its own traditional meat sauce, but this is by far the easiest and effortless sauce. Of course, without compromising the flavor.
Another recipe besides this calabrese dish to try is Spaghetti arrabiata, with a rich and spicy tomato. Also, check out my Authentic amatriciana recipe and my Pink sauce with tomato, and burrata cheese. Both delicious.
Every Calabrese family serves this delicious recipe on its own along with some boiled potatoes or with some pasta and a handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
The secret to a delicious calabrese sauce is in the use of various cuts of meat and in the slow cooking process that releases all juices in it and makes the meats super tender. It creates a mouthwatering dish that calls for a ton of bread to dive in.
Why you'll love it
If you are still wondering whether to make or not this authentic calabrese sauce, then keep reading.
Easy to make- As in most Italian recipes, no high culinary skills are required. You will just need to brown the meats and stir occasionally, that's it.
Rich in flavor- The variety of cuts of meat, the slow cooking, and the tomatoes creates a rich and scrumptious sauce.
Versatile dish- What I love about this recipe is its versatility. This calabrese sauce is fantastic to enjoy with pasta or on its own. Moreover, its rich and creamy sauce works great served on toasted sourdough bread.
Great make ahead- To save time cook the sauce the day before. Then you will just need to warm it up and use it in your favorite way. Make sure to read down below in the variation section to have some idea.
The ingredients for making the calabrese sauce are extremely simple and are easily available in the supermarket. Remember to always use fresh ingredients, especially when using meats.
- Oil- Use extra virgin olive oil for this calabrese sauce recipe. Olive oil is a staple ingredient in every Italian dish, and it makes such a difference.
- Onion- Buy fresh onion, it will taste better than the ones in brine.
- Meat- Use ground pork, slices of pork belly, boneless beef shin, and Italian pork sausage. Make sure to buy authentic Italian sausage. They have a coarser texture and are flavored with fennel, garlic, or chili. They are incredibly delicious. You can find Italian sausage in any Italian deli or online.
- Wine- Use any dry white wine to deglaze the meat. Look for Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, or Verdicchio, but no sweet wine.
- Tomatoes- Use a mix of San Marzano tomatoes and Italian passata.
- Flavoring- Use some dry red pepper flakes, bay leaves, basil, and salt to provide an extra flavor.
In just a few steps you are able to enjoy an inviting "sugo" calabrese, as we say in Italy. Let's start!
*Note: this is just a quick introduction. Please read the recipe card for the full instructions.
Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, and onion to a large casserole over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent and stir constantly to prevent burning.
Brown first the pork belly on each side along with the beef shin over medium heat in the same casserole. Remove them and set them aside. Brown the sausages with ground pork on medium heat in the same casserole. Then add all back to the casserole and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to flavor up. Stir constantly.
Pour the wine, and with a wooden spoon stir and scrape any meat bits that stick to the bottom. Cook over medium heat.
Once the alcohol is evaporated add the San Marzano, the herbs, and salt. Stir and leave to cook for 2 minutes.
Add the passata and give a quick stir. Turn to low heat and let cook the calabrese sauce for 1 and ½ hours, and stir occasionally.
Here are some tips on how to serve this recipe along with some substitutes.
Serve with- We love to serve this recipe with some homemade gnocchi pasta or short pasta rigata that traps the sauce. Moreover, this calabrese sauce is incredible to use for lasagne or baked pasta along with some smoked mozzarella cheese. Also, it is incredibly delicious on top of cooked polenta with a generous handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Yum!
Vegetables- In the authentic version you can't find any vegetables, however, you can certainly add carrot and celery stalk to the sauté step.
Tomatoes- If you can't find any San Marzano tomatoes swap them with whole peeled Tomatoes. Alternatively, double the amount of the Italian passata.
Meat- Instead of the pork ground use some pork spare ribs and some diced pork shoulder to enrich the calabrese sauce. However, I suggest you always use a mix of pork and beef for this recipe.
Idea leftover- Use the leftovers to stuff the round zucchini with. Slice the tops off the zucchini and scoop out some of the insides leaving a small amount of the perimeter intact so that the squash retains its shape. Cut all the meats into fine pieces. In a bowl add the leftovers, salt, zucchini pulp, and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Mix and stuff the zucchini with the mixture. Place on top a slice of Mozzarella cheese and bake at 180 °C for at least 40 minutes. If still raw let the zucchini cook for 15 minutes more.
The pieces of equipment used for making the calabrese sauce are quite low and some you may already own.
To chop the onion and to cut the beef shin use two medium chopping boards and two chopping knives. I use two different chopping boards of different colors. One for the veggies and one for the meat to prevent cross-contamination.
Use a round Dutch oven casserole with a high side to brown the meat and cook the tomato sauce. A wooden spoon or any no-steel kitchen spoon to stir the sauce, this way you will not scratch the base of the casserole. Use the lid of the casserole when cooking the sauce to prevent any splash on the stove.
Fridge- Store the leftover in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days once is cooled off. Reheat it into a medium pot on low heat and add half a glass of water to cream up the dish. It is ready when the sauce is warm and is not too liquid.
Freezer- Once the leftovers are cooled off, store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost it in the fridge for 12 hours and then reheat it in a medium pot with a bit of water for a few minutes on low heat. It is ready when the sauce is warm and it is not too liquid.
👩🏻🍳 Top tip
Here are some tips that will help you to create a scrumptious calabrese sauce.
Browning- This step is crucial for achieving a great sauce. By browning the meats the juices will be released, and it will enrich the sauce.
Don't crowd the pan- Divide the browning step as suggested in the recipe. Doing so the meat will brown evenly and will not boil.
Leave the sauce on the stove- Don't walk away for too long from the sauce. Make sure to check every now and then to prevent it from burning. Stir often with a wooden spoon.
Cook for the right amount of time- Cooking the sauce on low heat for 1 and ½ hours will make the meats tender and will create a sauce packed with flavor.
Calabrese is a meat base recipe made with pork and beef. The variety of cuts gives the dish an incredible and unique taste.
This recipe has a rich, slightly spicy, creamy meaty flavor. A true pleasure to try.
No, is not. The level of the spicy is quite low, so no worries about the heat. If you want to be safe just remove the chili from the sauce. However, if you are brave enough you could add more chili or even a tablespoon of the typical spicy Nduja.
Yes, of course. You may need to break down the browning process into more steps. As the recipe will call for more meats.
Yes, of course. This calabrese recipe is a traditional dish from Calabria in the south of Italy.
These are my favorite dishes to serve with calabrese sauce:
- 2 Chopping knives to slice the onion and chop the beef shin
- 2 Chopping board
- 1 Dutch oven casserole
- 1 Wooden spatula
- 3 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 90 gr onion not in brine
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 340 gr beef shin cut into chunks
- 150 gr pork belly slices
- 200 gr pork mince/ground pork
- 400 gr Italian sausages 4 pieces
- 1 bay leaves dry or fresh
- 2 basil leaves fresh
- 1 teaspoon Maldon salt adjust to taste
- 80 ml dry white wine such as Pinot Gris
- 400 gr San Marzano tomatoes DOP along with the juices
- 680 gr Tomatoes passata
- 115 ml water
- Dice the onion very finely and set it aside. Pour the olive oil and add the onion, and the red pepper flakes into a Dutch oven casserole. Sauté the onion until translucent on medium heat and stir constantly to prevent burning.
- Cut the beef shin into chunks and set aside. *Pat the meat cuts with a paper towel to achieve better browning.
- Start by adding the pork belly and the beef shin into the casserole. Brown all the meats on every side on medium heat. Once done, remove the meats and add them to a bowl.
- Add the sausages and the ground pork on medium heat in the same casserole. Brown the meats and breaks up the ground pork with a wooden spoon.
- Add back the pork belly and the beef shin into the casserole, along with any juices left in the bowl. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to flavor up. Stir constantly.
- Pour the wine into the casserole. With a wooden spoon stir and scrape any meat bits to the bottom. Cook over medium heat.
- Once the alcohol is evaporated add the San Marzano, the herbs, and salt. Stir and leave to cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the passata and give a quick stir. Turn to low heat and let cook the calabrese sauce for 1 hour. Cover the casserole and stir often.
- After 1 hour add the water and adjust the seasoning. Stir and cook for another 30 minutes on low heat. Stir often.