Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce

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    Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from a friend’s Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I’ve ever had in my entire life and I can’t wait for you to try it!

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    What makes great grandma’s pasta sauce so special?

    My friend told me that for every Christmas and get together, his grandmother used to make her famous 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 his great grandmother who came over from Italy. YOU KNOW it’s good when it’s from a legit Italian. Not some Chef Boyardee character.

    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 has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    Don’t hate on great grandma’s pasta sauce

    As you can see in the comments section below, there was some haterade on this pasta sauce.

    There is a multitude of ways to make pasta sauce. I am not claiming this is THE right and ONLY way to make it.

    This is how his family makes it.

    If this isn’t the way “your” Italian grandmother or mother or whatever makes it…please don’t yell at me and tell me so.

    Recipes are passed down from generations for a reason.

    Every recipe is different. Every recipe is modified for each family.

    There no “right” way to make something. That is why recipes bring such joy in the kitchen; they can be changed up.

    I’m bringing this up because of comments I’ve gotten about this recipe and thus have turned off commenting for that very reason.

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    This pasta sauce is so easy to make!

    You literally need the most basic of ingredients:

    • Ground beef
    • Tomato puree
    • Garlic
    • Spices
    • Fresh basil
    • Water

    Can I freeze this pasta sauce?

    To be honest, I haven’t tried to freeze this before but I know others who have and it’s fine! I would put it in one of those plastic takeout containers and reheat on the stovetop (like defrost it then plop it into a saucepan).

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    Can this pasta sauce be made in the slow cooker?

    Technically, yes, because the idea is to cook it low and slow. I haven’t done it myself but I know others have done it so I’d put it on low for 3-4 hours!

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    So many great recipes that you could use great grandma’s pasta sauce recipe in:

    Grab the recipe for great grandma’s pasta sauce below and be prepared to get wrapped up in comfort!

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it!

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce has been passed down through the generations and it originated from my husband's Italian great great grandmother. It is the most delicious, rich, flavorful, pasta sauce I've ever had in my entire life and I can't wait for you to try it! #pastasauce #greatgrandma #bestpastasauce

    4.74 from 65 votes

    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce

    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!
    Prep Time: 10 mins
    Cook Time: 2 hrs
    Total Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
    Course: Main Course, Main Entree
    Cuisine: Italian
    Servings (adjustable, but please note that results, timing, and cookware may vary when adjusting servings): 6
    Calories: 263kcal
    Author: Julie Chiou
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    • 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


    • In a large stockpot, saute garlic until soft and fragrant in 2 tbsp. of olive oil, about 2 minutes.
    • Throw your meat in with the garlic and brown until meat has been thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Pour in the tomato paste, tomato puree, and seasoning, including the fresh basil and sugar. 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.
    • Let mixture simmer, uncovered, for 2 or more hours (the longer the better, but minimum 2 hours), stirring occasionally.
    • 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 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.
    Nutrition Facts
    Great Grandma's Pasta Sauce
    Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
    Calories 263 Calories from Fat 81
    % Daily Value*
    Fat 9g14%
    Carbohydrates 24g8%
    Fiber 5g20%
    Sugar 15g17%
    Protein 23g46%
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
    *Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

    Photography by Jesse Reilly

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  • Sue McCrimmon says:

    Julie, Sounds good. I, too am JUST a housewife, but I somehow manage to keep my family fed and happy. I appreciate people like you who are willing to share family recipes.
    To Sande: I have no idea why you are so bitter, but I will pray for you. By the way, it’s “gush” all over you. I don’t believe there is such a word as “guzz”, but I could be wrong. I’ll have to look it up.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Thanks, Sue!!

    • Jodi Bezy says:

      Hi Sue just a suggestion no disrespect on the recipe. I have learn through the yrs and Grandma teaching me. To thickens Sauce if to watery Add Pamasean, regoni add alittle add a time till it has the consistancy u want.. It thickens i plus a great taste in sauce☺ Hope I helped.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is exactly how my mom and her mom makes their sauce! I LOVE it! Sorry for the mean comments you received, so uncalled for.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Yay! So glad to hear this!

  • DeeAnne Hedrick DeDeurwaerder says:

    You are so right… it’s simply delicious!!! Thank you for the time to put this recipe on here for All to enjoy!
    DeeAnne Hedrick DeDeurwaerder

  • Cindy McCampbell says:

    Hi Julie,
    I have always used canned spaghetti sauce until I made some from scratch. It was good but I want something better! When I found this I thought maybe this is it!! When I made the sauce before I left out the tomato paste and I used tomato sauce not puree. Maybe that’s what’s missing.

    My husband likes it thick and rich! So I’m going to try this. I don’t think I could make a better one.

    I’m sorry people were so ugly about this recipe! It seems like everywhere you go people always have to tell you their way! It would be a boring world of everyone made the same anything!!! Well I say live a little and try something new! You never know it might better!!

    I’m really interested in your cooking for two cookbook! It’s just my husband and I and I’m always ready to learn more about cooking!!! 😉 Does Amazon have it where you can get a feel of what’s in the book? I have a very picky hubby unfortunately! He doesn’t like cheese or anything creamy. Can you believe that????

    Anyway, I will make this sauce and I’m definitely going to look through your recipes!

    Have a terrific day!!! 😘

  • Deborah says:

    Hi sorry for the stupid question….this sauce looks amazing but would I ruin the recipe if i made it without the sugar and with some red pepper flakes instead? My family normally prefers spicy over sweet when I purchase canned sauces so thought I would ask….

    • Julie Wampler says:

      You wouldn’t ruin it but I do believe that it’ll be very tart for you without it. Try it without and see what happens; at least you can adjust sugar to your own taste! And yes, red pepper flakes would be great.

    • Sarah says:

      If you need to omit the sugar due to dietary restrictions, try adding a little baking soda. It sounds weird but it will help neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes.

  • KIM COMEAU says:

    Absolutely Delish! And super easy. The hardest part is waiting for it to be done!

  • KaLynn says:

    I have been making this for several years and it is a favorite in our house. I actually double the batch every time now. I brown the ground beef, throw everything in the crockpot, and cook on low for hours. I’ve found that it also freezes well. We like to have this over the Ronzoni veggie pasta.

  • Michelle Lord says:

    This sauce is so simple and basic. Now before you freak out and assume I’m hating on it, what I’m trying to say is that it’s versatile. Where I’m from we would call it Sunday sauce. Leave out the meat and add sausage and you have one meal. Leave out all meat and you have a base for lasagna. With some simple modifications (and zero cooking time) you can use it on pizza. I suggest always using San Marzano tomatoes or anything labeled plum tomatoes. It’s essential. I was so suprised by the comments and the rudeness. It was, however, a pleasant reminder how lucky I am to have had this sauce in my repertoire my whole life. I knew families that called it gravy but in reality it’s sugo or ragù. Use fresh ingredients if you have them but there’s no shame in using dried especially oregano. There are literally thousands of pasta sauces and tomato based ones are only the beginning. Good luck and enjoy this lovely sauce!

  • Casey Herek says:

    Absolutely delicious and kid approved!
    I threw everything in the InstantPot on ‘slow cooker’ function for 4 hours. After 4 hours, I used a potato masher to mash all the ground beef (did not brown beforehand) and then cooked sauce another 30 minutes. The beef was super soft and incorporated perfectly into the sauce, not chunky but instead very fine bits of ground beef remained. It was incredible and so easy this way.
    The sauce is garlicky, so maybe half the garlic next time (I love it garlicky but kids wanted less next time) and there is a sweetness to this sauce which is why I think my kids LOVED this so much. Excellent recipe!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      So glad to hear this! I’m glad you were able to make this in the Instant Pot!

  • April says:

    I discovered your recipe a few years ago, and it was a hit from the very first try. I’ve made it so many times I don’t even need to read your recipe! I use it for my lasagna, and any other pasta dishes we eat. Since I started making this my husband won’t eat sauce from a jar. The only things I’ve done a little different has been kinda cheating, if I’m in a hurry I use the already minced garlic in a jar and the stir in paste basil. It’s excellent each and every time! Thanks for sharing.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      This makes me so happy to read. Thank you so much!

  • Juliette says:

    Made this recipe last night and my fiancé and father-in-law both loved it!! I thought it was quite delicious myself. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Erin says:

    Making this tonight. We’re a bunch of oregano lovers, so my pinch was quite large. I can’t wait to see how it turns out! I used dried oregano, from my garden last year. After reading Jason’s story about his family in the comments I like to think his great grandmother would approve. It’s what I have on hand and it’s my most cost effective way to get herbs, very true to her recipe creation… I hope! I love that you haven’t changed a thing and I can’t wait to taste some of your family’s history. Thank you for sharing it with us all!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      I hope you enjoyed! Thank you so much!

  • Jo Gittos says:

    Delicious I added a green capsicum plus a handful of chopped mint as well. Family really enjoyed it.

  • Dorian says:

    Great recipe. I made it with fresh tomatoes and was the same (… even better) like the one we had in Italy a couple of years ago. Thank you for sharing.

  • Nicole says:

    Truly Delicious

  • Andrea Materazzi Johnson says:


    • Julie Wampler says:

      Haha too funny!

  • Jill says:

    Do you drain the ground beef?

    • Julie Wampler says:

      No, I didn’t but if you find it to be too fatty, you can either switch to 90/10 next time (or something leaner) or skim the fat off the top.

  • Kathy says:

    Thank you. This might be just the recipe I’ve been looking for about 50 yrs. Wish me luck.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Oh! I hope you love!

  • Charlene O'Brien says:

    Julie, this is as good as my stepfathers Italian Restaurant sauce! He was from Naples and was a chef/owner of a very popular Chicago restaurant which is still family run 60+ years later! I fondly remember the line cooks handmaking ricotta & chard handout raviolis every day and served with a delicious but simple “red gravy “ either with or w/o ground beef or a combo of sweet Italian sausage (casings removed) & ground beef or pork. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us! So simple and easy to prepare then it simmered for hours until we opened for dinner service. I always snuck the heel of crusty bread and dunked it into the sauce (& I still do at age 65!) and thoroughly enjoyed my special treat! Besides the fresh basil, what other seasonings do you use? I use oregano. I was craving Papas red gravy and although my marinara is good, it didn’t taste as good as his and now your family’s authentic delicious sauce. I did freeze after cooling in quart mason jars and when I wanted it, I defrosted it in the fridge overnight and cooked some penne pasta al dente and it was even better after reheating it! I especially love a chunky sauce so I didn’t mash my tomatoes down but left them a medium chunk. Again thank you! 😘☘️

    • Julie Wampler says:

      I’ve used all kinds of seasonings in this pasta sauce; I love changing it up every time. I have used Italian seasoning (most often) and I’ve also used just oregano, too.

  • Marie says:

    Hi Julie thank you for getting me back into making sphatti sauce , since my husband died in2011 I got away from making my own as he was the maker . Just happened on your page and this has quite a bit of his methods so I thank you it tastes wonderful and I’m grateful to get back into the swing and the family and their children are happy also . So once again thank you

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad to hear this and so sorry for your loss.

  • Jessica says:

    I’ve used this recipe in the past and used uncased Italian sausage instead of ground beef. It’s always a hit, and I want to incorporate it into a gift basket. Do you think it would be safe if I made it and then canned it in Ball Mason jars?

    • Julie Wampler says:

      If you’re familiar with canning and its food safety, then you can try it but unfortunately, due to liability reasons, I can’t suggest anything either way!

  • Jae says:

    Love this recipe, however I found it to be much too sweet for me with the whole two tablespoons. Once I took it down a notch it was absolutely perfect. Thank you for sharing this! I wont use any other recipe now.

  • Robin says:

    Loved by the whole family. No need to say more about that.Thank you so much for sharing it. As far as rude people making rude comments. Block and ignore them is the best thing to do. They must have a sad life.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Thanks so much!!

  • Megan says:

    Can you tell me what a serving size is? The nutrition facts just say “one serving”. Thanks!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      A serving size is about 1 cup of sauce

  • Kyle says:

    Soo good i made this tonight thank you for sharing your recipe

    • Julie Wampler says:


  • Whitney says:

    This has been a staple in our home for some time now. My 10 year old started helping me make it when she was in preschool, and I know it’ll be something she’ll take with her into adulthood. My family seriously expects it weekly and when we have extra kids over for dinner they always request it! Thank you so much for sharing something that has now become a tradition for my family.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Awwww this meant the world to me to read this. Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad your family loves it so much.

  • Beth H says:

    Unfortunately I do not have Italian in my heritage, so I don’t have a solid reference point. However I have tried many sauces and/or gravies from Sicilian friends or relatives of friends or acquaintances . This is the best. I don’t care what it is called, gravy or sauce. Second time making in two weeks. This time I am doubling an freezing a portion. Made no adjustments. Thanks Julie!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      So glad to hear this! Thank you so much for writing!

  • Stephanie Carter says:

    Unfortunately this recipe is too small for my family, I would like to add it to my recipe app so I can easily multiply the ingredients. How big would you say your pinches are? 1/8th tsp maybe? We are so sick of jarred sauce and my mother in laws recipe is, eh alright, and that’s after major tweaking so I’m really excited to try this.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      You can easily do serving changes in all my recipes. If you look at the servings, just change the number and the other measurements change along with it.

  • Sara says:

    Loved this! I love making my own sauce but I’m no chef. This was an awesome base. I followed exactly except to add a few whole garlic cloves bc I am a garlic lover, a teeny extra fresh purple basil (leftovers in the garden) and dried thyme and parsley. The house smelled AH-MAZING while it was simmering. Next time I might try half ground beef-half sausage just because we’re part of a meat co-op and we always have a ton of both on hand. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • Tammy Todd says:

    This sauce or gravy is the best I’ve ever tasted. I could eat spaghetti everyday if I could. This is definitely a keeper for now on. Thank you for sharing.

  • Pam says:

    I love to cook Italian food–officially, I have grabbed your recipe and made it my own….this is the BEST spaghetti sauce that has ever graced my table…..BRAVO & thanks for sharing!!

  • El Whitfield says:

    Hi Julie,
    I just wanted to say, I absolutely l loved your recipe! It was so tasty, thick and very saucy. My husband was our pasta cooker in our household, but since I have made your ‘Great Grandma’s Pasta Sauce’ (although I didn’t have can of tomato puree at the time of making the recipe, I used can of diced tomatoes instead) he conceded that it was amazing and I ruined his cooking :D.
    Keep up the amazing work! Ignore those negative people. They are certainly missing out.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Thank you so much!! This is so sweet and I love the story of you and your husband, haha!

  • Patricia Roberts says:

    My mother inlaw use top make a sauce an she put a pork chop in it have you ever heard of this she passed away an no one can find recipe

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Hi, I’m sorry, I haven’t heard of this recipe.

    • Lauren says:

      my grandpa used to make his pork chops with a marinara sauce and add other ingredients to make it a sweet and sour sauce almost. If that sounds like her recipe I would be happy to share it.

  • Erin Williams says:

    This is deadset the best pasta sauce I have ever made, thank you for sharing! I didn’t have fresh basil so I used a pinch of dry and added 1/3 cup of fresh parsley at the beginning. I added a shredded carrot and shredded mushrooms at the 1 hour marking (hiding veggies!) and then browned some meatballs and put them in at the 2 hour mark for a further 20 minutes. My entire family was happy so this will be made again and again!! Thanks so much.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      thank you so so much!!

  • Nihkii says:

    Loved this! Thank you so much :) Was going to make spaghetti the other day and I opened my browser and it suggested a sauce from a renowned italian cook that was literally like tomato sauce and a onion you took out at the end. Someday I’ll try it (I love food that varies from family to family!!)but I’m so glad I went to my que board on pinterest and finally tried yours. I had a huge toddler mess to clean up after, so it was a huge success ;) it even worked well with my soupy diy puree 😂 Going to have to check out some more of your recipes now!

  • George Mattern says:

    Hello, I can tell you back in old Italy ground beef was not used. And I would question some of the spices used as well.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      well, i don’t know what to tell you. it’s not like we can just call up his great grandmother and tell her some of my readers are questioning the authenticity of her recipe and for her to explain herself 🙄 this was a recipe passed down from her and she was from ischia, italy.

  • Judith D Dixon says:

    ‘looks like a fabulous recipe!! ‘will make this soon…thank you!

  • Hannah says:

    My mom used to make a similar sauce. But don’t tell her because this one is way better! I’ve used it for spaghetti, baked ziti, lasagna and for macaroni goulash and it’s amazing In all the things!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Haha I won’t say a thing!

  • Jodi Bezy says:

    I made the Sauce Last night. Very Good, I added Hunts Roasted tomatoes 2 cans. Omiting the water..These are my go to tomatoes. Great Flavor.☺ Loved your Recipe, my Grandma taught me a right on. Ty.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Wonderful! Thank you

  • Kathy says:

    This is a damn good sauce also so easy!

  • Tobie R Lurie says:

    I stopped making pasta sauce when my sons grew up and moved out but your recipe sounds so easy that I will give it a try again. Thanks for posting!

    • Julie Wampler says:


  • Katy Scott says:

    Wow, this was great! So rich and thick and my hubby and 10 year old son were practically licking their bowls!

    I didn’t have access to San Marzano tomatoes (as noted in some of the comments) so just used regular tomato paste and a 28-oz can of plain crushed tomatoes, which is what I had in the pantry. I cut the sugar in half to make up for the lack of San Marzanos, but it was still a little sweet for my family’s taste, so we might try 1-2 teaspoons of sugar next time. I sprinkled with red pepper flakes at the end, and we served it over cavatappi and chopped fresh baby spinach.

    We sat down to eat and I was going to get up and pour myself a glass of wine, but I took a bite first and the sauce was so stunning that I just kept eating and I completely forgot to get wine!!

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Awww so wonderful to hear!! thank you for sharing!

  • Diane says:

    I have 2 questions about this recipe. First, I have always heard, and believe myself, that you don’t add basil until the end of the cooking time.
    Secondly, what are those “seed-like” looking things in the sauce in the jars? Thanks.

    • Julie Wampler says:

      Hi, I only see one question in this comment, haha – the seed-like looking things are red pepper flakes.

  • E. Rodriguez says:

    I’m from Puerto Rico I do not know too much English but I will try to make that dinner it looks so good

  • Joyce F. Furukawa says:

    Can’t find tomato puree in the markets. Is there a substitute I could use (1st time I used stewed tomatoes)?

    • Julie Wampler says:

      you could use tomato sauce. sometimes tomato puree is labeled as that.

  • Paula Hollifield says:

    This is EXACTLY the way my Italian grandma taught me to make sauce!!! It’s the only recipe I’ve found that is TRULY authentic! I’ve always doubled it because I have a large family. Then I make large meatballs and add to the sauce and simmer 4-5 hours!

  • Angelo says:

    Have you tried to cook this in a instant pot yet? If so how long and what settings? How long until it gets that mahogany color?

    • Julie Wampler says:

      I haven’t tried this in an instant pot

  • Patricia Nelson says:

    Love to cook but i cook too much

  • Patricia Nelson says:

    This looks so easy and delicious. Thanks for sharing

  • Kathleen Coleman says:

    I have yet to make this recipe, but I wanted you to know that this grandma has made this recipe ever since I raised my family some fifty or so years ago! Can’t imagine why it raised such a fuss when you put it out there! Simpler for youngsters to navigate than meatballs and now grandpa appreciates the meat ground! Always have puree and paste on hand just in case!!! Too many ingredients sometimes spoil the pot, so to speak! Just a note—pretty much raised and married into Italian families!!

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