Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce

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.

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.
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.

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.

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?

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.

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
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 10 mins
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 beyond genuine and you will love it!
  • 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.
Recipe Notes

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 slow cooker: I've never made this in the slow cooker 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.


Posted on October 17, 2012

  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. 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!

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