When Steve Schirripa speaks about Uncle Steve’s pasta sauces, his pride and passion is unmistakable. “I had never eaten a jarred sauce until we went into business,” he says. “I know a lot of people who say, ‘No, I make my own.’ Understood. But when you can’t make your own, or two parents are working, this is a healthy choice that is really, really good.”
You may know him as the Sopranos’ Bobby “Bacala,” and you may have read one—or a few—of his Goomba books in the years since the series ended. These days, though, one of Schirripa’s main events is his line of pasta sauces. After his mother passed away a few years ago, Schirripa was inspired to work with her recipe. About six months of tinkering (with countless gallons of the delicious-but-not-exactly-what-he-was-going-for sauce donated to homeless shelters), Uncle Steve’s sauces were born. The line currently includes marinara, tomato basil, and arrabiata.
“I’m so passionate about it because it’s that good,” he says of the sauce that’s now in 2,400 stores. Uncle Steve’s is made in small batches, and with organic ingredients—all of which are listed on the front of the 25-ounce jar. The plum tomatoes are imported from Italy, and the sauce is made on Long Island. “What you see is what you get. It’s not a novelty.” Schirripa has hosted several cooking shows, and while he’ll be the first to point out that he’s not a chef, the self-described “food guy” knows a thing or two about nailing a recipe. “I’ve done a bunch of demos and food shows, and people are stunned [when they try it],” he says.
Schirripa notes that while the arrabiata is the biggest seller, he prefers the less spicy varieties. At home, he has a quick and easy approach with the sauce: He sautées a jar of his marinara—or tomato basil—in a large pan with tilapia (and sometimes also throws in some calamari), and just “cooks it all together” for about 15 minutes. His wife, Laura, and the kids, however, are fans of the arrabiata, and enjoy it on rigatoni, mussels, clams, calamari, and more. Schirripa says they also use it for turkey chili, and several people have told him they enjoy it as a salsa alternative with chips.
The sauces can be purchased on Schirripa’s website, which also features the following recipes:
Photos courtesy of Uncle Steve’s.