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Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce

I’m so happy I’m marrying a half Italian man. I love pasta. It’s one of the number one things I cook on the blog. If I could eat pasta, rice, and cookies the rest of my life, I would be one content lady.

Since meeting Jason, holidays have been filled with lots and lots of homemade recipes that have been passed down. Last Christmas, we went to West Virginia where his mom’s (the Italian) side of the family always gets together because the grandparents are there. This was my first experience with REAL, homemade Italian food. I’ve never been to Italy and I never got invited over to an Italian’s house for dinner (haha). I seriously have been missing out on so much goodness. I’ve never ever had a homemade Italian meal before. To me, my own concoction of  marinara sauce with meatballs or ground beef was good enough for me – better than canned Ragu and Prego, right? I bet the Italians are all shaking their heads right now.

Apparently, every Christmas and every get together, Jason’s grandmother makes her infamous pasta dish. It’s made with this homemade pasta sauce that simmers on the stove for hours. This pasta sauce is like liquid gold. It’s the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I’ve ever had in my entire life. This pasta sauce was actually from Jason’s great grandmother who came over from Italy. YOU KNOW it’s good when it’s from a legit Italian. Not some Chef Boyardee character. Did I just compare his great grandmother to Chef Boyardee?

So, one night, Jason had just come home from a weekend in West Virginia and he was telling me about how they made the pasta dish that weekend. I got a huge craving for it so Jason said he’d make it for me. Oh my lawd. I literally could’ve taken that entire pot of sauce and drank it like I was dehydrated.

The secret to this sauce is the simmering process. Low and slow, baby. That’s how all the flavors develop and marry one another in a sweet, luscious concoction.

If you want to taste what the Italians are so blessed with over in Italy, I suggest you give this pasta sauce a try. You won’t ever go back to your plain ‘ol marinara that you thought was good. This sauce here is genius. And genuine.

Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce
Recipe type: Main Entree, Beef, Pasta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: almost 2 16-ounce jars
  • 1 lb. 80/20 ground beef OR 90/10 ground beef
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 6 oz. water
  • 1 24 oz. jar tomato puree
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large stockpot, saute garlic until soft and fragrant in 2 tbsp. of olive oil, about 2 minutes.
  2. Throw your meat in with the garlic and brown until meat has been thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour in the tomato paste, tomato puree, and seasoning, including the fresh basil. Stir to mix well. With the 6 oz. can from the tomato paste, fill that with water and pour it in the stockpot as well.
  4. Let mixture simmer, uncovered, for 2 or more hours (the longer the better, but minimum 2 hours), stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve hot over fresh pasta.
A lot of people have asked about freezing this. I have not personally done this myself but I believe if you freeze this in an airtight container or a jar, it will be ok for up to 2 months. Do not freeze it immediately after making it. You'll want it to cool to room temperature before putting the jar or container in the freezer to prevent cracking.

On making this in the crockpot: I've never made this in the crockpot before, however, I believe it's pretty do-able. This is what I would do: brown your meat, put it in the insert of the crockpot, then add all the other ingredients, stir, cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 1-2 hours.



  1. 10/17/2012 at 7:55 am

    This looks very similar to my grandmother’s recipe! Except she always puts a splash of cold brewed coffee in her sauce. She says it takes the “bite” out of tomatoes. Don’t know if it actually makes a difference, but I do it :)
    Very pretty pictures Julie!!!

    • 10/17/2012 at 10:56 am

      Thanks Aimee! The 2 tbsp. of sugar in mine is what takes the “bite” out of the tomatoes. Very cool that there are different ways of doing so – that coffee sounds intriguing!

  2. 10/17/2012 at 8:06 am

    We have a few family holiday specials too. This looks awesome

  3. 10/17/2012 at 8:09 am

    This is totally why I want my first international vacation to be in Italy. The FOOD! Now I’m just trying to figure out how I can work this into my menu this week.

    You’re very lucky to be marrying into this. Think of all the future potential! I have to say I’m a little jealous…

  4. 10/17/2012 at 8:20 am

    What a coincidence! This is exactly how I cook this type of sauce! Only difference is I also include a cinnamon stick cause I love the smell!

  5. 10/17/2012 at 8:28 am

    you just can’t beat homemade pasta sauce in my book – paired with a big ol’ bowl of pasta, it’s the perfect comfort food.

  6. Michelle H.
    10/17/2012 at 8:28 am

    I just want to rip off a piece of some warm buttered italian bread and dip it in the screen.
    OH MAN that looks yummy!!

  7. 10/17/2012 at 8:34 am

    Mmmmm, that looks so good Julie! I’m always making quick and easy pasta sauces because I’m short on time but I have got to try this low and slow method asap!

  8. 10/17/2012 at 9:05 am

    As much as I don’t like tomatoes, true Italians really do know what they’re doing.

  9. 10/17/2012 at 9:06 am

    Oh my! There really is nothing better than homemade sauce! I always try to keep sauce on hand for last minute do you know how this jars? If I was to seal it with the hot water method?! I’d love to have homemade sauce on hand for those nights! :) p.s. you lucky lady to be joining an Italian family! Keep sharing those recipes! Haha

    • 10/17/2012 at 10:54 am

      I don’t know how I’d jar it, but I usually just put it in a mason jar anyway and keep it in the fridge for a few weeks – if it lasts that long!

  10. 10/17/2012 at 9:11 am

    Man I wish I had an Italian great grandmother – this sauce looks immense!

  11. 10/17/2012 at 9:12 am

    Love that color Julie!

  12. 10/17/2012 at 9:42 am

    Heck. Yes. Three cheers for our Italian guys!! Heehee. :)

  13. 10/17/2012 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for sharing this special recipe!

  14. 10/17/2012 at 10:04 am

    I so rarely make my own sauce but I will definitely try this when I do!

  15. 10/17/2012 at 10:17 am

    You can never go wrong with homemade sauce!

  16. 10/17/2012 at 10:38 am

    Oh my heavens. I’m totally jelly you’re getting married into an Italian family. And that Jason cooked you this pasta. That’s love, giiiirl. Forreals.

  17. 10/17/2012 at 10:54 am

    you have to make sauce low and slow. the best sauce is from grandmas and grandpa’s. They know their stuff!

  18. 10/17/2012 at 11:16 am

    Marrying into an Italian family = BEST EVER! My in-laws are 100% Italian, and all I can say is “homemade ravioli”. Spoiled for life and for the better.
    I’m so impressed–and grateful–that your family to be is so open with their culinary traditions/secrets. I love to make family favorites and share them too. Thanks!

  19. Ben
    10/17/2012 at 11:18 am

    Looking forward to giving this a try!

  20. Kristen M.
    10/17/2012 at 11:20 am

    This looks so scrumptious! My husband is half Italian and comes from a big Italian family in MD but I got jipped. He can’t cook any of his family’s authentic dishes. But no I am not bitter (only I am a little). Thanks for sharing this family recipe!

    • 10/17/2012 at 11:26 am

      LOL this made me laugh. You got jipped, hahaha – go talk to some of his relatives!! Get those recipes! :)

  21. 10/17/2012 at 11:32 am

    I am always looking for new ways to make pasta dishes. I am definitely going to need to make this one soon. Sounds perfect!

  22. 10/17/2012 at 11:45 am

    Oh, oops. How did my face end up in that. Huh.

  23. 10/17/2012 at 11:49 am

    Oh wow this looks delicious! I’m always looking for new pasta sauce recipes and I am going to have to give this a try :) I’ve only recently come across your blog, but I love it, it has a beautiful layout and your recipes are amazing :)

    • 10/17/2012 at 11:52 am

      Aw thanks, Annie! That’s so sweet of you :) I look forward to sharing more with you! xo

  24. 10/17/2012 at 11:52 am

    I would drink that through a large straw. OMG. please make this for me when I come to your house. which I am? I’ll bring wine?

    • 10/17/2012 at 11:55 am

      Omg, done and done!! For serious.

  25. 10/17/2012 at 11:54 am

    My mouth is watering. I love pasta too…and a simple and classic recipe like this is always tasty. YUM!

  26. 10/17/2012 at 12:08 pm

    YUM!! I need to somehow get into an Italian family. Should have thought ahead when I picked my husband.

  27. 10/17/2012 at 12:27 pm

    I LOVE italian food! My mouth is salivating just looking at this!

  28. Jackie @ Domestic Fits
    10/17/2012 at 1:11 pm

    Nothing better than a Handed Down family recipe! Love this!

  29. 10/17/2012 at 2:10 pm

    Ohhhhh lucky girl!!
    You have to share all you know about pastas!! ;)
    And this sauce…. looks amazing!

  30. 10/17/2012 at 2:39 pm

    My mom’s family is Italian as well, so she ALWAYS makes pasta on all the big holidays! Welcome to the club :)

  31. 10/17/2012 at 3:27 pm

    I am so happy that you posted this because I NEED to teach myself how to make Pasta Sauce! I only use canned right now……..I know.. I know… bad bad me. But this looks wonderful! AND no pepper and onions! So hubby can eat it! (onion powered is ok lol)

    Ps. I too wish I could live off of pasta, rice, and cookies!

  32. 10/17/2012 at 4:01 pm

    Homemade pasta sauce is the best best best! I am craving pasta, and tomato sauce.

  33. Deb
    10/17/2012 at 5:35 pm

    I have been making my own pasta sauce for 40 years, never the same way twice and it always comes up lacking something. So i am in pursuit of my favorite recipe for keeps. There is not much to your version, a pinch of the classics, lots of garlic and sorry, its a peeve of mine, s and p to taste. Could you be more specific? Is your pinch 1/8 tsp? I love tomatoes and im thinking the pleasure of this sauce lies in simplicity, no bitter over cooked herbs, just delicious tomatoe goodness. Do you have a favorite brand of canned tomatoes. Thank You for a great blog!

    • 10/17/2012 at 5:41 pm

      Salt and pepper really is to taste, though. 1 tsp might be too salty for someone and not enough for someone else. I’d start with 1/8 of a tsp for salt and pepper and increase if it’s not right for you :) I use San Marzano tomato paste and tomato purée. Hope it works out for you! Thanks for reading :)

  34. 10/17/2012 at 6:12 pm

    Recipes that are passed down are the best! And this sauce looks amazing. I’m totally going to double this batch and freeze it so I can have it ready whenever I’m having a hankering for Italian food! YUM!

  35. 10/17/2012 at 7:24 pm

    I would eat that with a spoon. No pasta, just give me a spoon and maybe a hunk of bread to sop up whatever the spoon can’t get. It looks awesome!

  36. 10/17/2012 at 8:00 pm

    This looks simply perfect. An Italian family, I bet they have some amazing culinary secrets!

  37. 10/17/2012 at 9:39 pm

    Passed down recipes are always the best. And this pasta sauce is definite proof of that. YUM!

  38. 10/17/2012 at 10:47 pm

    Give me a straw- I’m gonna drink that down!!

  39. 10/17/2012 at 11:28 pm

    Oh my goodness — these photos are stunning!!! And this sauce sounds absolutely amazing. YUM!

  40. 10/18/2012 at 2:52 am

    UGH. I love pasta. I love this.

  41. BETTY
    10/18/2012 at 2:55 am

    The only thing we can’t duplicate in this recipe is “Grandma’s love”. Thanks for sharing.

  42. 10/18/2012 at 2:57 am

    You are one lucky lady! This recipe looks so simple, but I believe they’re so rich in flavors. I should start making this for big family dinner. It must be awesome, especially since I love Italian food. Thanks for sharing your soon-to-be family’s recipe!

  43. 10/18/2012 at 5:11 am

    Homemade pasta sauce is certainly the best thing. Thanks for sharing this recipe, it sure looks delicious!

  44. 10/18/2012 at 9:05 am

    There is never a good reason to make pasta sauce when homemade versions like this one are so simple and delicious! Looks wonderful.

  45. 10/18/2012 at 9:47 am

    This sauce looks epic! I’m always on the hunt for the perfect pasta sauce and this looks like a winner. Can’t wait to try!

  46. Mona
    10/18/2012 at 9:53 am

    The canning thing: Get the water in the canner going. I would put the hot pasta sauce into the sterilized jars, top with the lids and rings. Lower the jars into the canner and bring water to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes. You should be safe!

  47. Ashley
    10/18/2012 at 11:40 am

    I think I’m going to head to the grocery store to try this, hope it’s not an epic fail…! :)

    PS- I’m assuming since you brown the meat in the pot you don’t drain it…? And also can I use garlic in the containers that has already been minced? The store I have to use today (not my preference) may not have garlic cloves..

    • 10/18/2012 at 11:42 am

      Hi Ashley! It’s a simple sauce – it won’t be an epic fail, at all! Don’t drain it – the fatty goodness (it’s not that much, I promise) gives the sauce flavor! And yes, you can use the garlic in the containers as a substitute for garlic cloves.

  48. I right there with you on the pasta thing Julie – it is my absolute fav and I could eat it for like every meal (okay…I take that back, I need to mix in some Mexican food too haha).

    I love that this is his family recipe – that is so awesome! :)

  49. Dianna Belle
    10/18/2012 at 2:07 pm

    They don’t do the Christmas Eve Seafood supper?

  50. 10/18/2012 at 3:52 pm

    Yeah, Italian recipes from real Italian people! That’s how I feel too. I am definitely going to try this!

  51. 10/18/2012 at 4:53 pm

    I love great grandma recipes! Mine is not at all Italian but she makes the best pumpkin bread in the world. (Okay, maybe I’m biased. But seriously.) I’m bookmarking this sauce to make on a snowy day this winter. I’m fairly confident it will be the ultimate comfort.

  52. theresa
    10/18/2012 at 6:08 pm

    I like to put onions also. I usr crushed tomatoes, paste,and sauce. Brown sugar instead of white. Add a couple differant cheeses. Just a little. And i like the thin speg. Cook for at least 2 to 3 hours. Of course,dont forget italian seasonings.

  53. ericka
    10/19/2012 at 6:58 pm

    You don’t drain the fat off the meat? Cooking for dinner tonight!

    • 10/19/2012 at 7:19 pm

      Nope! It gives the sauce more flavor :)

  54. Monica
    10/21/2012 at 2:19 pm

    Thank you, for sharing can’t wait to try your receipe.

  55. ericka
    10/21/2012 at 2:52 pm

    It was to die for!!! Thanks! On the agenda today…pumpkin chocolate chunk muffins!

    • 10/21/2012 at 3:48 pm

      So good to hear :) you’ll love those muffins – they’re one of my favorites!

  56. 10/21/2012 at 7:37 pm

    This looks like heaven!

  57. Sande
    10/23/2012 at 5:11 pm

    Pretty basic sauce. I spent years cooking Italian every Sunday after church with the young man that I was best friends with and dated for years. His grandmother was born in Italy, so Italian was on the dinner almost every night. I’ve used her recipes for 50 years and have people begging me for the “secret ingredient” which I was sworn not tell. My father would be for me to make this sauce when I was a teenager and beg for the secret…I’d made the sauce but never share the secret. Still have never told anybody.

    Her classic Italian sauce would never have powdered spices in onion and garlic. Fresh or nothing.

    Not saying it’s not a tasty sauce but certainly a vast amount of improvement can be made. Coffee in mine yes, sugar no. If you want sweet sauce buy a jar or Prego.

  58. Donna
    10/24/2012 at 12:03 pm

    I always add a cup of burgundy to a large pot of sauce.. And canning anything with meat should be done in a pressure cooker not just a water canning method.. I can mine and it’s the only safe way… Nice to send my sauce home with my grown kids..i also add way more oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil, and tons of garlic.. I never measure and end up with enough for dinner and canning

  59. 10/24/2012 at 5:23 pm

    The REAL secret to an amazingly good sauce is using San Marzano tomatoes. When you use them omit the sugar from your recipe. You don’t need it because of the sweetness of the tomatoes from this region. It will change your life :)

    • 10/24/2012 at 5:40 pm

      What’s funny is – that’s exactly what I used in this sauce. I didn’t want to throw brand names out there though in case people can’t find it at the grocery store & then I’d get a zillion comments asking, “can I use another brand?!” :)

  60. Sande
    10/24/2012 at 7:54 pm

    Wow! You should have a blog if you don’t like comments, people’s interjections or opinions.

    Seems you only allow comments to be posted, seen and read if they totally agree with your thinking.

    I notice that only ones left to view are the ones posted by people that are drooling all over you and your creations.

    Like I said..this is a basic tomato sauce. Just because your husband’s mother made it this way doesn’t mean it’s the best Italian Pasta Gravy. Yes, I said gravy. True Italians prefer gravy on their pasta.

    Grow up, put on your big girl panties and expect and accept feedback especially on a blog written by a housewife…not a chef. But then again maybe you are use to people gussing all over you in praise even when you shouldn’t be getting it.

    Did you ever hear of Constructive Criticism? If not, maybe I suggest you look it up.

    • 10/24/2012 at 8:02 pm

      Seems like you have nothing better to do than to come back and troll my blog to see if your comment was moderated. If you actually read my other posts, you’ll see that I do approve comments that have constructive criticism in it and not all comments of my dishes are praised.

      If you really want to know why I didn’t approve your original comment was because you were rude and hateful. I don’t need that type of attitude on my blog. I never said this was the golden sauce all Italians use. I simply said this was the Italian sauce my fiancé’s grandmothers have passed down and I fell in love with it.

      Also, you might want to re-check what you type before you submit. I SHOULD have a blog if I don’t like what people type? Awesome! Thank you! ;)

  61. Sande
    10/24/2012 at 8:58 pm

    My original post was rude and hateful…really!

    Hun, you don’t know rude and hateful when it’s coming from me. But I’ll end it at this….as your not worth my time or energy.

    I wasn’t trolling your blog to see if you approved my comment. I more important things to do than to post on a losers blog. I simply set all comments I leave anywhere to automatically send all follow up comments to my email address.

    Sorry….your correct. I should have double checked what I posted but then again, we all make mistakes especially typo’s.

    Now go back and stir something.

    Like I’s a basic tomato sauce. Nothing special. Now were did all the lovely Italian spices go?

    And on a side not…”marinara”…that’s all your recipe is. Marinara with meat. Sickening sweet marinara.

    Funny you’ll approve and leave that one up but wouldn’t approve the original. Go figure.

    Sure you want me to me to bring on the rude and hateful. Really…a hateful comment over basic tomato sauce.

    Do you stroke and kiss yourself every morning when you wake up and thank god for making you so wonderful.

    • 10/24/2012 at 9:04 pm

      If you were going to end it “at this,” then what was up with the 8 other sentences below that?

    • 10/24/2012 at 9:16 pm

      Check your facts, darling. I never replied to your first comment so therefore, you wouldn’t have a follow up comment to your email address. Therefore, you DID come back to my blog to check whether or not your first comment was approved. Ah, so you definitely don’t have a life. Lovely!

  62. Diane
    10/24/2012 at 10:27 pm

    I made this tonight, its only been simmering an hour so far on the stove (husband won’t be home for another hour-ish) and it already tastes Uh-Mazing!!! So much better than what you buy in a jar… the only thing I did different was use ground turkey because my husband’s Dr. ordered diet does not allow beef… for me the key to making the turkey taste similar to the beef is to let it brown a little… thank you so much for sharing, it is definately going to be a regular in our house from now on!!

    • 10/25/2012 at 8:44 am

      I love that you switched it up with ground turkey! Definitely a healthier alternative. I hope you and your husband enjoyed it!

  63. Courtney L
    10/24/2012 at 10:34 pm

    First, sorry about crazy lady above. It’s amazing how hateful people can be- and for absolutely no reason! I just wanted to say that I have this on the stove right now and I’m looking forward to it. Also, when I first saw your blog name my brain separated the words as table fort wob log. I got a little confused and then laughed at myself. Cheers to you and thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • 10/25/2012 at 8:45 am

      Haha, that’s funny – my brain sometimes does that too. That crazy lady is a bit off her rocker but besides that, I hope you enjoyed the sauce :)

  64. Sande L.
    10/25/2012 at 8:25 am

    Funny lady.

    Like I said you shouldn’t have a food blog if you can’t accept criticism. And the ones drooling over your sauce have either never had homemade pasta gravy before and don’t know what the real thing taste like.

    Now scurry along and cook something else for them to go bonkers over.

  65. Diane
    10/25/2012 at 9:47 am

    It was a hit!! It was so thick it stuck to every bit of pasta so that every bite was a mouthful of awesomeness… it was ridiculously easy to put together, you just gotta plan ahead so that you give it enough time to cook. “Basic tomato sauce” or not, it was super easy and very good, that’s a win-win in my book… Thanks again Julie for sharing! :)

    • 10/25/2012 at 10:03 am

      I’m so glad to hear this! I love how thick the sauce is :) thanks for coming back to leave feedback for this!

  66. 10/25/2012 at 7:07 pm

    Found you via Pinterest and that sauce looks AMAZING! I’ve been looking for an honest to goodness spagetti/pasta sauce recipe for a while now. I am definitely going to try this one. Love that it uses ground beef. Many of them use another cut of beef or sausage, and I’m not opposed to the sausage idea but for my family spagetti has always been with meat sauce made with ground beef.

  67. 10/26/2012 at 10:15 am

    I’ve been wanting to post my family’s version of “gravy” (aka, spaghetti sauce) on my new blog someday soon.

    I agree with you 100% that the slow simmer makes the most AMAZING sauce. Of course, a simple marinara that is simmered for only 15 to 20 minutes is good too. It mostly comes down to the quality of tomatoes in my honest opinion.

  68. Monique
    10/26/2012 at 4:17 pm

    Ignore the haters….they have tiny little lives and don’t have anything better to do or they would be doing it. It is usually jealous people that spew hatful comments on blogs of people they don’t actually know and can hide behind their computer screen. If she didn’t like it she could’ve simply moved on to something she considered more worthy of her time.

    • 10/26/2012 at 4:24 pm

      Thank you, thank you. <3

  69. Mimi
    10/26/2012 at 6:45 pm

    I can’t help but laugh at Sande’s messages. She made herself look pretty foolish. If SHE was so concerned with a “correct way” to make sauce (gravy as she puts it), she needs to get her own blog and put it THERE. She sure wasted energy trying criticize what you put on YOUR blog. I appreciate the info you have shared!!

    I grew up in NJ around nothing but Italians. I miss all that fabulous cooking!! The one thing they told me to never forget when it comes to pasta sauce is………..use SAUSAGE. Never use ground beef. The flavors from the sausage along with your spices will put the sauce over the top! I look forward to trying this recipe!!

  70. Diana
    10/26/2012 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Julie! It so sad to see someone take time to say negative things (*ahem Sande*). Your blog shows your passion in your cooking and baking! I’ve only stumbled upon your blog a couple months ago and it has inspired me to cook and bake some of the things you’ve blogged! (I tried this recipe and my husband and friends loved it!) Thanks for inspiring me (and I’m sure others) to cook and bake! Have a good weekend!

  71. megan
    10/26/2012 at 10:14 pm

    Your blog is awesome and I look forward to reading it everyday!

  72. Kelleyd
    10/27/2012 at 9:40 am

    Sorry, late to the party grammar stickler here. Your=possesive of you. You’re=you are. If YOU’RE going to be rude, at least check YOUR grammar first. At least she didn’t need to use their, or there, or they’re.

    • 10/27/2012 at 9:44 am

      Omg, I’m totally the grammar police too! Her grammar was atrocious!!

  73. Santina
    10/30/2012 at 11:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. It’s very similar to my Italian Nonna’s recipe. It’s nice to see these traditional recipes being handed down to our generation of cooks. On that note, as an actual Italian American who knows what I’m talking about (not a non-Italian who got her recipes from her boyfriend’s grandma 40 years ago) I thought I might clarify a few sterotypical misconceptions that a certain previous commenter perpetuated. Italians never call sauce “gravy.” It is not a word that exists in the Italian language. “Gravy” is a regional term used mainly by East Coast Italian Americans. As a California Italian, we never use that term and have only heard it while watching “The Sopranos.” Above all, there is not just one type of sauce, so ignore any criticism of your sauce recipe. Any good Italian cook has an arsenal of sauces used with a variety of dishes. One of the beauties of Italian cooking is the appreciation for variety in cooking, both among individual cooks and regionally. Italian cooking is a constant evolution of tradition and experiment. Thanks for keeping that spirit alive!

    • 10/31/2012 at 10:49 am

      Thank you, Santina for this comment!! :) :) some people just have no idea what they’re talking and love causing drama ;)

  74. Wendy B
    11/01/2012 at 11:21 am

    Julie, I justed started reading your blog today through a Pin on Pinterest and I love it! I have to say you show far more restraint with Sande than I would have! Life’s too short to be aggravated by petty minded people who think their (note the proper spelling -lol!) way is the right way. I know because I USED to be married to one – nothing you can say or do will make any difference to them and they’ll just keep responding to stir the pot. Ignore her (or him!) and she’ll go away. Taste is a very personal thing. I can’t wait to try your recipes. Your photography is absolute perfection. Keep sharing those recipes!

    • 11/01/2012 at 11:24 am

      Aw – thank you so much for this comment, Wendy. Taste is a very personal thing and although I respect that everyone has their own opinions & ways of making things – she was completely out of line. Thanks for being a loyal reader :) have a wonderful day!

  75. 11/02/2012 at 12:34 am

    As an Italian, that’s pretty much how you do it! lol In my house, optimally, the sauce will cook for 24 hours or more. Don’t throw the meatballs or sausage in until a couple of hours before you plan on serving it. We have a huge old cast iron pot that ours is made in.. only we add 2 cans of tomato puree and a can or two of water (especially because we cook it so long). The one thing that’s missing from Jason’s recipe and I’m surprised it’s not there, is bay leaves! Add a couple and the key ingredient in my families is Locatelli pecorino-romano cheese. It adds a touch of salt and a nice bite to the sauce.. I often eat it only with bread! lol

  76. Cristy
    11/02/2012 at 6:21 am

    Hi Julie – just found you through Pinterest too, via this particular recipe, which, btw, looks phenomenal. I used to date a half-Italian whose mom’s recipe was pretty much exactly like this one. It would cook all day long and end up being a nectar of the gods. Can’t wait to try this! On another note, I was dying to read up after looking at the pictures and then stumbled upon the word “infamous” in the first sentence and thought, “Huh?” You might want to fix that! :) Have a great day.

  77. Sabrina
    11/06/2012 at 10:54 am

    Chef Boyardee is real….

    P.P.S. pictures are making me drooooooool!!!

  78. Michelle
    11/08/2012 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you posting this! I found it through Pinterest and I’ve never made my own sauce/gravy before. This recipe is not intimidating for me AT ALL and I’m super excited about trying it! One question – do you think, after the intitial steps, could you be placed in a crock pot on low for the day? Would it have the same wonderful taste? I’m a HUGE crock pot user since I work FT, but this could always be a Sunday simmer, I suppose.

    • 11/08/2012 at 3:15 pm

      Oh yes! That would make the sauce SOO tasty and amazing!! The flavors would marinade together all day – great idea, I’d totally do it if I were you! :)

  79. Michelle
    11/13/2012 at 4:31 pm

    Well…..I made this recipe on Sunday, on the stovetop, and it was AMAZING!!! My whole family enjoyed it and I cannot wait to make this recipe a regular part of our meals. Italian sausage and in the crock pot will be next!

  80. melissa
    11/16/2012 at 10:32 pm

    This is a lot like my granny’s recipe. She is 100% Italian. Lots of basil makes it; sugar is a must. Never heard of coffee though as some mentioned. And for the name…red gravy was a common name for it growing up by both my maternal and paternal grandmothers, whom are both of Italian descent. Not sure if “red gravy” is a southern term down here in new orleans or if it came straight out of Italy.

  81. Jaime W
    11/24/2012 at 7:26 pm

    I’ve made this sauce 3 times now and I just wanted to finally thank you for sharing it! It’s wonderful and for a newbie cook like me super easy to make. Thank you, thank you!! My husband and I love this sauce!

  82. 11/28/2012 at 2:19 pm

    This is similar to how I make my sauce, but with vegan sausage. You can’t tell the difference and its a lot healthier for you and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

  83. Lisa
    12/08/2012 at 6:57 pm

    The sauce was awesome!

  84. Sherry
    12/14/2012 at 7:08 pm

    This is just like the “secret” recipe given to my mother by an old Italian woman who came to America to cook at our family restaurant when I was little. She barely spoke English. (Many years ago.) She told my mother the ‘last’ secret ingredient just before she died… cinnamon!!

  85. Bethany
    12/16/2012 at 5:04 pm

    I have this simmering on the stove right now! Looks amazing and was very simple. Question though: It just began the simmer so I know it has to go for a few hours at least, but on initially tasting, it is very bitter, will that simmer out of the sauce? I did double the recipe but otherwise followed it to a T.

  86. Bethany
    12/16/2012 at 6:48 pm

    Tragedy averted! The bitterness simmered out beautifully. We were left with a rich tomato sauce with lots of depth of flavor. Lovely sauce, thanks!

    • 12/16/2012 at 7:01 pm

      Sorry I never got back to you! Been doing some car shopping today! I’m glad you figured it out and it turned out great for you :)

  87. Tracy
    12/18/2012 at 3:57 am

    Hi Julie! I make a sauce similar to this on occasion, only instead of ground beef, I make a braciole (usually flank steak stuffed with cheese, garlic, parlsey, and bread crumbs)brown it, then take it out, make the sauce, and return the meat to the sauce to cook. My grandmother from Naples always made it this way, because she could not serve meat and pasta on the same plate! So we would eat the pasta with sauce first, and the sliced up braciole for the 2nd course. On really special occasions, she would cook sausage and braciole in the sauce. I want to cry just remembering those days! Oh, and I currently LIVE in Italy, and have made sauce like this for Italian friends who have enjoyed it very much. It is a bit different than the way locals here make their sauce, but I’ve never had anyone leave annoyed because I used dried oregano instead of fresh! ;)

  88. Luigina
    12/18/2012 at 4:04 pm

    Let me start by saying I am Italian. There’s a million different ways to make spaghetti sauce.I never add sugar in any sauce.And I I only use fresh herbs,real onions and garlic instead of the powdered stuff.Fresh ingredients always taste better. Try using baking soda to cut the acidity instead of sugar. Just sprinkle a little over the sauce while it is cooking.It has no taste and works very well. However if you use a good brand of canned tomatoes you won’t have to add any at all. The major difference from an authentic sauce prepared in Italy to an American one is that is its more savory,while the American is sweeter.Finally the type of spaghetti/pasta and cheese will make all the difference to the final dish. Trying using an imported brand of pasta.It really tastes better.

  89. 12/19/2012 at 9:50 am

    this is such a traditional recipe and you make it look easy. The picture absolutely drew me in. I love the angle and how rich you made the sauce look. I could drink it.

  90. Jason (the fiance)
    12/19/2012 at 10:50 am

    Hi Everyone! I just want to clarify that this is not ‘the sauce’ that only ‘true Italians’ make. What it is though, is the sauce that my great grandmother made, which was passed down to my grandmother, and then to my mother, and now Julie and I. When people say that we should use this meat, that meat, real this, fresh that, it sort of defeats the purpose and insults the history of my family’s recipe. My great grandmother and great grandfather emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century when the large influx of Italian immigrants to this country occurred through Ellis Island. My great grandmother from Rome, and my great grandfather from Ischia, off the coast of Naples.

    They emigrated separately, and wound up in Southern West Virginia where they met and began their American lives together. My great grandfather worked in coal mines his entire life while he and my great grandmother raised 9 children together. Money was not abundant, and they used ingredients which were readily available and affordable to them at the time. One of the many definitions of authentic is: conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features. Could we change what ingredients are used? Sure, but then we would be missing the point of this recipe.

    This recipe is as much a time capsule and a reflection of my family’s history as it is something to put on top of pasta.

  91. 12/20/2012 at 5:41 pm

    I was thinking about doubling this only instead of 2 lbs of beef use 1 lb beef and 1 lb italian sausage? Has anyone done that?

    • 12/20/2012 at 8:49 pm

      You could totally do that!

  92. lisa
    12/22/2012 at 6:34 pm

    Looks soo good. Do u strain the grease off after u brown the meat before u add the sauce. Thanks

    • 12/22/2012 at 8:32 pm

      Nope, I didn’t. It gives the sauce more flavor :)

  93. Dan
    12/24/2012 at 3:07 am

    Hello Julie the sauce looks amazing, and easy to put together was wondering if adding a little of your favorite drinkable red wine while simmering may be a nice addition flavor wise :-) happy holidays from Nova Scotia Canada . cheers

    • 12/24/2012 at 12:22 pm

      Yes, you can! :) happy holidays! enjoy!

  94. 12/24/2012 at 5:08 pm

    I come from a “traditional family” and we basically use this recipe, but simpler and cheaper… canned spaghetti sauce in place of tomato sauce and paste, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar… In the end what I love about this recipe is that its super easy, and you can play around w/the spices for taste… My family likes it sweeter, hence more sugar. Sometimes ginger, whatever you want and its so hard to mess up.

    Thanx for sharing!!!

  95. Rosie
    12/26/2012 at 7:25 am

    This is how I always made my sauce too! I have also married a half Italian man and I too LOOOOVE his Nonna’s sauce (she’s from Sicily). But his Nonna uses half beef mince and half pork mince, and it makes an amazing difference to the flavour. She’s also known to throw in some pork belly cut up into bite sized pieces, rind still on, and as its cooked so slowly it becomes so tender it just melts in your mouth. Absolutely delicious! :)

  96. 12/26/2012 at 10:13 pm

    No no no… Use Italian sausage in it…not hamburger, and it will taste much more authentic. I too am married to an Italian man and his Italian grandmother taught him how to make red sauce. I will never use hamburger in it again when I make it. Try Italian sausage and you won’t be disappointed in the change in your recipe. :))

  97. Roma
    12/29/2012 at 4:02 pm

    The sauce looks great; however, Italians do not put sugar in their sauce.


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