Grandma’s Pasta Sauce

Dinner is served! Mangia tutto!

My mother-in-law is an incredibly good cook and a pretty good grandmother too.  She has always made her mother-in-law’s pasta sauce and I’m fairly certain her mother-in-law may have received the recipe from her grandmother making this a very vintage pasta sauce recipe.

Rosalie, my mother-in-law, taught all the daughter-in-laws and daughters how to make her sauce.  When my son was three he refused to eat the pasta I would make even when I told him it was Grandma’s sauce.  Unless GRANDMA was standing at the stove stirring the magic pot no way was he going to believe me.  This broke Grandma’s heart and endeared him to her for some time.

During one of her visits she pulled up the kitchen chair to the stove.  Grandma requested my son to climb on board to watch me make her pasta sauce.  We started to brown the meat.  She showed him the recipe and what we needed to do next.   We opened the cans, measured the herbs and Grandma allowed him to take the packaging off the chicken bouillon while we waited for the sauce to become Grandma’s Sauce.  By the time we had all the ingredients in the pot my son was losing patience for standing on a chair that would take another two hours to finish.  He saw that Grandma had done her due diligence in showing me how to make the only sauce he would ever eat.  She said to him, as she could see he was losing interest, “Now you see your mommy knows how to make the sauce.  So every time she makes it you’ll know she’s making my sauce for you and your sister.”  Not trying to be impolite he said, “Ok grandma, may I please get down?”

Mr. Ants-in-his-pants was too interested in what others were doing and standing there just wasn’t what he wanted to do.  But mission accomplished.  I wish I had taken pictures of the event as I retell the story so often.  We didn’t have phones that snapped pictures twenty years ago like mine does now.


  • 1 pound of pork country ribs
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable oil or light olive oil to cover the bottom a 13 1/4 quart Dutch Oven (preferably with enamel lining)
  • 1  28 ounce can of tomato puree plus 1 can of water
  • 1  12 ounce can of tomato paste plus 1 can of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon of dried basil OR fresh basil if possible
  • 1 pinch of baking soda (helps remove the acid)
  • 2 packages of chicken bullion
  • 2 Tablespoons of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 pinch of cayenne (totally optional)

Brown the pork till you get it brown on all sides of the meat.  Add all the rest of the ingredients.  Stir to get it all mixed well.  Boil hard for 15 minutes with the lid on stirring often so as not to burn the bottom of the pan.  Then lower your heat to simmer.  Simmer this for 2 hours stirring occasionally.  During the last 15 minutes you can add a little more fresh basil.  Remove the meat before serving.   The meat is incredibly tender and falls off the bone.  You can set it aside and eat it separately or add to your pasta dish (that’s if you can keep your family away from it).

The sauce can be kept in the fridge for some time or you can freeze it in heavy-duty plastic containers.   We usually use penne rigati pasta (means penne with ridges to hold on to the sauce)  but have used this to make lasagna and ravioli.  The families of the Fioretti’s enjoy this simple treasure often.  Mangia tutto! 

2 thoughts on “Grandma’s Pasta Sauce

  1. That was very nice Mary . What a nice compliment. !
    You could also have said that no garlic is used in the sauce because Great-Grandma said “Anyone can make sauce with garlic, it then tastes of garlic. Only our meat sauce has that special taste if it is cooked properly !
    We love garlic so we usually serve our pasta with Garlic Bread!


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