Serves a Crowd

Grandma DiLaura's Tomato and Meat Sauce

February  9, 2011
Author Notes

My grandmother made this sauce for every pasta dish she ever prepared. People are often surprised by how simple the recipe is. No garlic, no olive oil, you don't even chop the onion. It's all about the tomato sauce and flavoring it with a few simple additions -- exactly how good northern Italian cooking is done. —cdilaura

  • Serves 12-14
  • 28 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 36 ounces tomato paste
  • 8 cups water {each can filled once}
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 whole medium yellow onion, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
In This Recipe
  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot add the tomato sauce and paste. Fill each can used with water and add to the sauce with basil and salt & pepper and stir. If you are adjusting the quantity of this recipe, adjust the water by the number of cans you use.
  2. Brown the ground beef, drain off the fat and set aside to add after sauce cooks 1 hour.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil on medium-high heat and then turn down to a slow simmer {caution: do not let the sauce boil too long or it will burn}. Sauce will cook 2-3 hours total until thick. Stir occasionally.
  4. After 1 hour, add browned ground beef and whole peeled onion to the sauce.
  5. In the last hour of cooking add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to eliminate some acidity and stir.
  6. When ready to serve, remove whole onion and cut in half or quarters to share. The onion will be extremely tender and sweet and was often fought over at our dinner table!

See Reviews

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • thirschfeld
  • dymnyno
  • cdilaura
  • ljc
Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, mine was wooden. With an Italian heritage on one side and a Lebanese heritage on the other, good food was never hard to find. I grew up with Sunday dinners at Grandma’s, big pots of sauce simmering away on the stove all day and hand cut pasta drying on the rack in the basement. The perfume of lemon, garlic, garden grown herbs and other fresh ingredients always scented our family kitchens. So it is no surprise that my love for fresh, hand-prepared food is something I now love to share with new and old friends. Because of that, I put on my apron, sharpened my knives and started a blog and NYC supper club called [email protected] to continue spreading the good food love.