Creating Flavor Memories

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Celebrating Food and Family with Chef Donatella Arpaia

Slow-Braised Ragu and Meatballs

(Family Features) Flavor is a universal language. It’s the common thread in family celebrations, friendly get-togethers and cultural gatherings around the world.   It connects us across generations and geography and has the power to unite and define us.

Growing up in an Italian household, Chef Donatella Arpaia can attest to the power of flavor.  For her, flavor memories stem from her Italian family’s traditional Sunday dinners.

“One of my most vivid childhood memories is watching my mom in her robe with a wooden spoon getting ready to make her meatballs and Sunday ragu. What I learned at a young age is that in order to develop flavor, you can’t take short cuts; you have to be patient,” said Donatella, now an acclaimed chef and judge on “Iron Chef America.” “Sunday dinners are a tradition that I can’t wait to pass down to my son – to teach him not just the recipe for slow-braised ragu and meatballs, but the recipe for bringing the family together.”

Donatella’s passion for flavor is part of the reason she’s partnering with McCormick to celebrate their 125th anniversary. The company’s Flavor of Together program seeks to ignite a global conversation asking people across the world to share their flavor story. For every story shared on McCormick’s brand websites or social channels, McCormick will donate $1, up to $1.25 million, to United Way to help feed those in need.

“As one of McCormick’s 125 culinary ambassadors I’m excited to be sharing my family memories for a good cause,” said Arpaia. “We all have a unique story to share.  Through Flavor of Together, people will have the opportunity to combine their love for food and flavor with giving back to those in need while inspiring a global conversation.”
Get a taste of Donatella’s mouthwatering slow-braised ragu and meatballs by trying it out for yourself with the recipe below. To read Donatella’s full flavor story and share your own, visit

Slow-Braised Ragu and Meatballs


Ragu Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • McCormick salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs (6-8) meaty, bone-in-pork spareribs, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 lbs (6-8) sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds, pierced all over with a fork
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 (35 oz.) cans tomato puree
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
Meatball Ingredients
  • 1 small loaf stale Italian bread (about 8 thick slices) torn into 2 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef chuck, broken up
  • 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • McCormick salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil for frying


  1. Ragu Instructions – Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat.
  2. Add celery and onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, partially covered about 5 minutes until golden and soft.
  3. Add meats and raise the heat to medium-high. Sauté, turning occasionally until browned all over.
  4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato puree, basil, salt and pepper. Partially cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Let it simmer 1 1/2-2 hours.
  6. For an extra kick of added flavor, sprinkle McCormick’s Italian Seasoning into the sauce.
  7. Meatball Instructions – Put bread in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover. Let stand for 5 minutes, turning to moisten evenly. Gently squeeze out excess water.
  8. Add beef, garlic, parsley, egg and 3/4 cup of Parmigiano to the bread and combine. Season with Salt and pepper. Knead the mixture for at least 5 minutes with your hands, until uniformly combined and smooth.
  9. Pinch a tablespoon of meat into your palms and shape into a ball. Place on a baking sheet and continue with the rest of the mixture.
  10. Fill a 10″ skillet halfway with canola oil and heat over high heat. When strands form along the bottom, lower 8-10 meatballs at a time into the oil. Do not overcrowd. They should be 3/4 of the way submerged in oil. Reduce the heat to medium and fry for 6-7 minutes each side, turning only once.
  11. Remove the meatballs from the oil and turn the heat back up to high before starting the second batch.
  12. 20 minutes before serving, add the meatballs to the simmering ragu.

8 – 10 servings

Notes, Tips & Suggestions

Chef Tip:

The best bread for this is the super market Italian bread that comes in a white paper bag. Choose a regular (not semolina) unseeded loaf. If the bread is very fresh, remove the crust and dry for 30 minutes in a 200°F oven.



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