Sloppy Joes featuring Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce

This recipe is also published on Fig West Chester.

A few months ago, some friends and I were sitting around lamenting about food and cooking. My one friend said she loves to cook, but cooking big meals for just her and her daughter seemed silly. I chimed in that I love to cook, but as a single gal, cooking for one person can be a little sad. The third friend said she loved to eat and the mentioned she had room to host and suggested we all get together and cook and eat.  The woman is brilliant. We spent a few weeks exchanging group Facebook messages and settled on a date. This past weekend, we had our second Saturday Night Eat All the Things (E.A.T.) dinner party and it was delightful. I made Maple Bacon Cupcakes and Sloppy Joes. I’d say both of them were a hit.

Besides the fact that I made this for a group of friends, another thing that makes this recipe special is the addition of the Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce. Vesper Bros. Foods is a locally owned and operated specialty-foods company based out of Delaware County. Twins Bill and Johnny Vesper started the company in 2010 because they wanted to carry on their family’s heritage and love of food.

They use only whole, fresh ingredients to create their specialty foods. Their website boasts, “all our products are 100% All Natural, no preservatives, no citric acid, no added sugars or sweeteners.” Their love of food and cooking dates back to their great-grandparents who came to the United States from Italy. They brought their recipes with them and the Vesper Brothers are now offering the tastes and flavors of handed-down recipes to their customers. Their items are sold in a variety of markets in the area.

I don’t know if Bill and Johnny’s great-grandparents would approve of their sauce being used to make Sloppy Joes, but I do know that they’d be proud of them for producing such a quality product that can be used to serve good food to your loved ones.


1 Tbsp EVOO

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic

Sea Salt

1 1/4 lb ground beef

1/2 cup No HFCS-added ketchup

2 cups Vesper Bros. Signature Tomato Sauce

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp red cooking wine

2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

Pinch ground cloves (1/8 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1.  Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 more seconds. Remove from heat. Remove vegetables from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

2. Using the same pan, generously salt the bottom of the pan. Heat the pan on medium to high heat. Crumble the ground beef into the pan. Do this in two batches to avoid over-crowding the pan. Do not stir the ground beef. Allow it to brown on one side and then flip the pieces over and brown on the other side. Use a spoon to remove the ground beef from the pan. Place meat in the bowl with the sautéed vegetables. Repeat process for second batch of ground beef.  Just a warning: the higher the fat content in the meat, the more the oil is going to pop when it starts to cook.  You will also end up with some fat on the bottom of your pan when your meat is finished browning. You can pour this off or just leave it. Fat = flavor, my friends.

3. When the second round of beef has browned and it’s all in the bowl with the veggies, use your spoon to stab the chunks of meat. I did this to break the meat down into smaller morsels. The stabbing also helped me release some stress. I burnt the first batch of veggies. Do you believe that?

4. Return the cooked ground beef and vegetables to the pan. Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, red wine, and brown sugar to the pan. Stir to mix well. Replace on the burner over medium heat. Add ground cloves, thyme. Lower the heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

I served these with store-bought mini-Kaiser rolls. (They weren’t that mini. They were the size of regular hamburger buns.) I had 12 buns and at the end of the night, there was one bun left and plenty of leftovers. We had eleven people at E.A.T. I’d say this recipe feeds at least 8.

Variations: I wanted to make this recipe with bison and bone marrow like I saw on some cooking show with Roger Mooking, but I figured it might be a bit much for a pot luck. I am, however, planning on going to Whole Foods to procure some bison and make burgers with it and this Calkins Creamery Vampire Slayer Cheese that they sell at 320 Market Cafe in Media & Swarthmore. 


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