Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe

Friday, June 27, 2014
Mom always had a pot of Sunday Sauce cooking on the stove and Italian bread is a must to dip it in to test for seasonings are perfect.

Along with fried meatballs in our Italian family and of course on holiday braciole (stuffed meat rolls)!

A tradition in our house was Grandma's Homemade Egg Noodles(all by hand) every Sunday.

That's where Sunday Sauce came from and the tradition in our American Italian family.

Here is our version handed down from generation to generation.

Mom would occasionally make little ears (or we also called the hats) pasta all handmade, then, of course, using all fresh tomatoes would be in a huge saucepot enhanced by fresh herbs and spices, simmering on the stove.

Simply the best smell in all of cooking for me is on Sunday with a pot of good old-fashioned Italian sauce simmering.

This is an easy recipe passed down for many many years and over 100 years old.

If you love Italian food, this is a Rome, Italy-style sauce that Grandma and Mom made that we love.

Sunday morning was always a joy with New York's finest tomato pie, fried meatballs, and this delicious Sunday sauce over our favorite cavatelli pasta!

Scroll down for the recipe and it's printable!.

this is a pot of sauce and Italian bread dipping into it for a taste

No Two Are Alike!

It seems like all tomato sauce that is made never has that same taste as any other.

Grandma and mom made almost the same recipe, both tasted different.

They all are unique in their own flavors.

In Rome where grandma was from, no oregano went in sauce, just fresh basil.

Mom loved oregano.

this is a collage of Italian tomato sauce, pasta and bread in a meal teaching how to make real authentic tomato sauce

Basic Recipe

This is a basic recipe from two different Regions, Rome Italy and Bari.

This is our family Italian-style sauce.

Hope you all enjoy Mom's and Grandma's sauce.

You can adapt this sauce any way you like with your personal additions, this is a basic tomato meat sauce.

Authentic tomato sauce has no oregano in Italy, that herb is reserved for pizza toppings, however as time went on in the U.S. Mom was a big fan of that ingredient and put that in the sauce too.

this is a homemade thick tomato Italian sauce with sausage and meatballs with pork spare ribs

Ingredients You Will Need To Make Traditional Sunday Sauce

Scroll down to the printable recipe card for exact measurements

  • whole tomatoes
  • water
  • Olive Oil for frying
  • tomato paste
  • fresh chopped garlic or more to taste
  • granulated garlic powder
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh parsley
  • dry oregano, dry parsley, sugar, salt, pepper
  • red wine Merlot of Cabernet
  • Meat Suggestions:
  • Italian sausage links cut up and fried and set aside and/or
  • hamburger meat to make meatballs
  • boneless spare ribs country-style fried and set aside
  • loose cooked ground beef if you want a meat bolognese sauce

Meats to use

  • Boneless spare ribs make the richest sauce to me but you can use any pork.
  • Meatballs, sausage, and braciole all make a delicious tomato sauce.
  • Ground beef sauteed in garlic would be a bolognese sauce
  • You can make the sauce without meat, which is referred to as marinara sauce.

this is a homemade thick tomato Italian sauce with sausage and meatballs with pork spare ribs


  1. use only European tomatoes, I always use fresh tomatoes living here in Florida(plum tomatoes) however San Marzano from Italy are what I recommend
  2. use pork in your sauce, boneless spare ribs, leftover beef, or braciole, meatballs, Italian sausage that's what makes a rich thick sauce
  3. keep the sauce on low when cooking for at least 2 to 3 hours and stir often so it doesn't stick or burn on the bottom
  4. always taste the sauce by dipping fresh Italian bread into it to ensure you have seasoned it properly with salt, pepper, and any other herbs you put into it
  5. Do Not Rinse: Pasta should never, ever be rinsed. The starch in the water is what helps the sauce adhere to your pasta. The only time you should ever rinse your pasta is when you are going to use it in a cold dish like a pasta salad or when you are not going to use it immediately
  6. If using fresh tomatoes just make an X on the bottom of your tomatoes and throw them into a pot of boiling water for no more than a minute. Fish them out with a slotted spoon, plunge them into a bowl of cold water (or an ice bath), lift them directly back out, and peel back the skin with a knife or your fingers. It will slip off like a charm

Italian tomato sauce in a big pot filled with crushed tomatoes, topped with basil, fresh garlic cloves, fresh oregano, meatballs and sausage is in the pot simmering to make this traditional Sunday sauce

Dipping the bread

I love dipping the Italian Bread in the tomato sauce. It's a must-do if you're Italian to ensure it's seasoned properly!

You need to make sure all the spices are just right in that sugo!

Make sure you do the taste test.

Pasta Suggestions

  1. Ravioli
  2. Manicotti
  3. Baked Ziti
  4. Lasagna
  5. Cavatelli
  6. Gnocchi
  7. Orecchiette
  8. Egg Noodles
  9. Any boxed kind cooked to package instructions

this is a homemade thick tomato Italian sauce with sausage and meatballs with pork spare ribs

For More Recipes:


Italian Meatballs

Homemade Sausage

this is fresh tomato sauce with plum tomatoes, sausage, meatballs and garlic bread on foil in the background

Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe Pin for later

My Hometown

Mom carried many Italian traditions in our family.

Our hometown Utica, New York is famous for so many foods and not only are there many fabulous authentic Italian restaurants there Utica's nickname has always been "Little Italy".

Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe

Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe

Yield: 10
Prep time: 15 MCook time: 3 hourTotal time: 3 H & 15 M
This is an original recipe my mom and grandmother made called tomato sauce. This sauce goes over any kind of macaroni, The sauce we make is from the Regions of Rome Italy. Everyone makes their sauce differently and no two taste alike. This is our family recipe.


  • 2- 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes put in a food processor and pulse till pureed add 2 cans water
  • or use 4 lbs of fresh plum tomatoes for the whole sauce, put through food processor no water.
  • (or use)
  • 2 -28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes, tomato puree or use 4 pounds of plum tomatoes put through a food processor
  • Olive Oil for frying
  • 1 small can (6 ounces) of tomato paste
  • 2 cloves fresh chopped garlic or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoons each dry oregano, dry parsley, sugar, salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine Merlot of Cabernet
  • Meat Suggestions:
  • 2 pounds of Italian sausage links cut up and fried and set aside and/or
  • 2 pounds of hamburger meat to make meatballs (meatball recipe) fried and set aside and/or
  • 2 pounds of boneless spare ribs country-style fried and set aside
  • 2 pounds of loose cooked ground beef if you want a meat bolognese sauce
  • Note: all herbs are optional ingredients, season to your taste


How to cook Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe

  1. In a large saucepan, saute fresh garlic in 3 tablespoon olive oil don not brown. Remove from the pot.
  2.  Add the tomato paste and stir.
  3. Add the cooked meatballs, sausage, or pork if using. 
  4.  You can fry or bake the meat you use.
  5. Add all the tomatoes and spices to the pot, simmer for 3 hours on low heat. 
  6. If the sauce gets too thick add more wine or water.
  7. Note: You can make this in a slow cooker or instant pot low heat 4 to 6 hours.
Traditional Sunday Sauce, Tomato Sauce, Pasta Sauce Recipe, Authentic Tomato Sauce, Sauce From Rome Italy, Sugo,
Italian Tomato Sauce, Sauce, Pasta Sauce
Created using The Recipes Generator

Traditional Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe Pin for later

this is an Authentic 100 year old recipe for Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce. The tomatoes are cooked in a big saucepot and I am dipping a piece of bread in the pot testing it for the right seasonings

Recipes From My Hometown Utica, New York

My hometown has so many wonderful creations and often referred to as Little Italy for some many ethnic authentic dishes, some famous for just the area like Tomato Pie, Italian Greens, Italian Lemon Ice, Pizza Fritta, Chicken Riggies, Manny's Cheesecake, Oscugnizzo Pizza, Pusties and Rosato Chocolate Cookies.

how to make Italian tomato sauce collage

This is an affiliate link and I do make a small commission See Disclosure Policy


  1. Ok DUKE now share BUSHES Baked brans reciepe. I liked people coming by to eat what they couldn't get at home now they don't have to. Good job

  2. This comment is from John the older brother....It's too bad you can't include the aroma of the meatballs and sauce as they cook!!!
    I might add that when the sauce is cooking at low heat, my JOB that was assigned to me by MOM, because I had to do my 'bit' to be able to have a couple meatballs BEROFRE they went into the sauce, ...I had to spoon out off the top of the sauce the orange puddles that was considered the acid of the made for a much better tasted sauce and easier on the tummy. um um good!

  3. My mothers gravy has meat in meatballs. I make mine with meat too. The meatballs are served a bowl as an entree..not with pasta.And that's how we do it in Lucca..anyway..have you tried San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. OMG!! I read an article on them in Saveur about 10 years ago and that's all I buy now, when I can find them.

  4. Have y ou tried San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy? OMG! I read an article about them in Saveur about 10 years ago and now that's all I use, when I can get them. I have to drive to Napa for them.

  5. no have never had the pleasure of trying those tomatoes, grow our own here most of the time or get Scafalini order from New Jersey from the factory.

  6. I like the add of the red wine, it must bring so much flavour to the sauce, great idea!

  7. I too like the wine! Excellent touch!

  8. I don't know if that should be changed at all. I tsounds pretty good the way it is!

  9. Thanks for sharing this. I used to work with a lot of New York Italians who would talk bout grandma's Sunday sauce, but would never tell me what is in it. I am not sure if they didn't know or just wouldn't share.

  10. I am so glad that I found your blog and all these amazing recipes! I love Italian food and enjoy making traditional Italian foods. I think that it is important to have the right ingredients if you want to make an authentic meal. Thanks for sharing, I can't wait to try this sauce!

    Amber |

  11. Your family recipes are the best! I bet the house always smells amazing when this sauce is cooking! Bill will love it!

  12. I love recipes like this. So comforting and any recipe that has a Sunday tradition - it's a winner in my book!

  13. I love to hear about traditional family recipes like this. Everything is made with love and so nice to hand down. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Nothing tastes better with pasta than homemade meat sauce. Your sauce sounds so rich and wonderful!

  15. Such lovely ideas to making this Sauce. Interesting uses to so many dishes. Flavors with the addition of Wine amazing. Thanks for the recipe and ideas too.

  16. Nothing like a traditional Italian family recipe. I just made Sunday Sauce for the first time recently (in my Crockpot). It so good and comforting. I like your idea of adding meatballs to the sauce too!

  17. We always used to dip our bread in my mom's Sunday sauce! So delicious! And I love the meatballs and sausage additions!

  18. Are you using 4 cans total or is there an option of 2 cans whole tomatoes OR 2 cans crushed tomatoes?

  19. Are you using 4 cans total or is there an option of 2 cans whole tomatoes OR 2 cans crushed tomatoes?

    1. Hello Amanda yes it's OR crushed. You can use puree, crushed or whole tomatoes. Two cans or 4 lbs of fresh plum tomatoes pureed in a food processor. Thanks good question. :)

  20. What brand of wine do you use? I have read several recipes for sauce that include wine but I’m not a wine drinker so I have never added it since I’m not sure what brand is good

    1. I use any kind of Merlot of Cabernet that isn't inexpensive, I use something that taste great and always buy a well known wine to add. My motto is if it isn't good to drink don't ruin your sauce by adding cheaper wines. Hope that helps.

  21. Wow, amazing flavors! Love this sauce, will be making it again soon

  22. This sounds perfect for a Sunday dinner. Love it!!

  23. I don't have simmer on our stove at home, and the Sunday sauce I make can burn quite easily. Unfortunately, it can't be an all day event on our stove. :( I see that you have that you can put it in a slow cooker. So should I follow the directions/instructions as stated and then empty into a slow cooker for 4-6 hours? Or just dump it all in the slow cooker and let it cook for 4-6 hours?

  24. My ex's mother made the best sauce, I looked and tried many but then made yours and it is extremely close to hers. Thank you!!

  25. Quick clarification question: It says if using 2-28oz cans whole tomato to add 2 cans of water. I am assuming this means fill the 28oz can 2x. Feels like a lot of water, just want to make sure im doing it right?

    1. yes the meat absorbs lots of it so as it simmers and the meat cook that water evaporates. Now on the other hand we like a thinner not pasty sauce so if you would like thicker sauce you can use 1 and 1/2 cans. Its really your preference and how much meat you add to it. I hope that clarifies. I hope that answered your question

    2. Thanks for the reply, that helps a lot. I am from Utica also and love your site.

  26. Our sauces would taste similar. The only difference is that I don't use tomato paste and add a bay leaf. Other than that we basically make it the same way. 😊 Karen (Back Road Journal)

  27. I'd love to try your sauce recipe, Claudia. Do you also have a delicous Italian meatball recipe as well?


Remember to use the search option for a recipe you're looking for and thanks for all your kind words and support. We love our readers all the best Claudia