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Family Recipes: Grandpa’s Italian Sauce

Family Recipes: Grandpa’s Italian Sauce

Today’s post, in honor of Grandparents Day, is courtesy of my mother – Jean Hubble.

I feel special…but what grandparent doesn’t! I have three wonderful grown children, a lifetime of memories, and the promise of many more from my seven fantastic grandchildren. I have always felt family gatherings play an important role in family togetherness. And at the center of our family events is always the food!

Food and family are some of my fondest memories of childhood. Whenever Dad said we were going to Grandpa’s house for Sunday dinner, I was delighted. We’d arrive to a house full of cousins with the aunties at the table making my favorite – homemade ravioli. Grandpa was always the one at the stove making the sauce. He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t understand Italian. But some things need little spoken language. The gleam in his eye when he looked at ‘that’ drawer, took me by the hand, and pulled out a chunk of chocolate spoke millions.

As time moved on, my mom learned Grandpa’s Italian sauce recipe and would carry on the Sunday dinner tradition. My dad and I would go to the bakery for a loaf of fresh, warm Scali bread. Little did Mom know that we got two loaves – one we pulled apart and ate on the way home. Then came my turn to carry on the family food tradition. I loved every minute of it but mostly that my kids often were in the kitchen helping out. Whether it was for a holiday feast or a weeknight dinner, Grandpa’s Italian sauce was always in the mix. And now my daughters carry on the tradition of making Grandpa’s sauce at family gatherings. But it’s more than just the sauce – it’s the cooking together and making memories that count.

Happy Grandparents Day!

Grandpa's Italian Sauce on Pasta

Grandpa’s Italian Sauce Recipe


  • 2 cans 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 med. vidalia onion (or sweet yellow)
  • 1/2 head of garlic (about 6 cloves), more if you love garlic like me!
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pan)
  • 2 tablespoons basil
  • 2 tablespoons of oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey, or pure maple syrup (to take away the acidity of the tomatoes)

Making Grandpa's Italian Sauce


1. Chop the onions to about 1/4″ squares.

2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic.

3. Heat the oil in large saucepan.

4. Add the onions and sauté for about 6 or 7 minutes until translucent and just turning golden.

5. Half way through the onion sauté, add the garlic to sauté with onions. Be sure not to overcook the garlic which will turn bitter.

6. Add the tomatoes to the pan and 1/2 of the tomato can of water.

7. Add seasonings and the sugar, honey or syrup.

8. Turn heat to med/high and bring to a fast simmer.

9. Simmer at fast simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stir occasionally being sure to get the bottom of pan. This will bring out the flavor of the spices.

10. Taste and adjust spices if necessary.

11. Lower heat to a slow simmer (slow bubbles) for 2 hours. Stir often. If the sauces get too thick you can occasionally add 1/2 cup of water if necessary.

Sauce Add-Ins & Additional Uses:

  • For meat sauce, choose your favorite(s) meats. I like pork (tenderloins work well) and chicken breast, cut in about 2 inch square. Sausages and veal are good, too! Simply brown the meat in olive oil in a separate pan. When brown add at the high simmer point of making sauce.
  • For meatballs, use your favorite recipe and add to sauce an hour before the sauce is done.
  • Using the basic sauce, you can make other family favorite recipes: chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, a variety of pasta and ravioli. And don’t forget you can freeze it for a quick dinner in the future.

Kids eating pasta and sauce

Editor’s NoteWe’ve been discussing all-things grandparenting on The Family Room Blog in honor of Grandparents Day! Read more posts about grandparents and don’t forget to celebrate today with the special grandmothers and grandfathers in your life.


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