My Grandma Rose’s Simple Pasta Sauce

February 11, 2010

Back when I was in nursing school and didn’t have a whole lot of free time, I had two default dinners: Grits & Cheese or Pasta & Sauce (glamourous, I know). The latter, being just a bit more ritzy, was also what I’d serve when my friends would come over. I would tell them it was my Grandma Rose’s sauce, and then I’d follow that up with a story about her. I’d tell them how, in Newark, in the 30s, the marriage between my Italian grandmother and my Neapolitan grandfather was considered an interracial marriage. Or how she used to be model for Sears, and the store would pay her to walk around the aisles in the latest fashions. Or how we used to sit and eat buttered alphabet pastina while I’d practice my ABCs.

All of this is true except for one thing: my Grandma Rose never made me pasta sauce. But it, like her, is Italian(ish), and for some reason this recipe that is a compilation of things I watched my parents do in the kitchen and my own trial and error while living in my first apartment always reminds me of my Grandma Rose.

This sauce is very forgiving. It is basically done when you’re ready to eat and can take a spectacular amount of abuse before it’s truly messed up. You can add whatever herbs you have around the house. As long as you don’t burn the garlic in the first step, you’re home free. And one more thing. My friend, Katherine, taught me how to can my own tomatoes back in the Fall. I use my own canned tomatoes but, by all means, the store bought variety is a fine alternative. But if you’d like to can your own tomatoes (which is a time-consuming pain-in-the ass but so-worth-it once you taste how much better they are than the store-bought kind), use her excellent tutorial here.

Sidenote: You’ll have to bear with the photo quality here for a bit. I’ve lost my camera cord and so I have to take pictures with my MacBook for now.

Want to make your own canned, crushed tomatoes to use in this sauce? Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Did this recipe make you hungry for pizza? Basic Pizza Dough

An easy, hearty dinner using this sauce Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce



5 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

16 oz crushed tomatoes

16 oz tomato sauce

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (to make it a little spicy. Use 1 teaspoon if you don’t want it as spicy)

1 teaspoon salt

1.5 teaspoons ground pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (if you have it. If not use dried oregano or dried basil)


Take skin off garlic. Chop garlic into pieces (the size of the chopped pieces is up to you, I tend to get about 6 pieces per clove). Heat a metal pot on medium heat. When it’s hot, add the olive oil, then the garlic. Brown the garlic. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, the red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and (if you are using them) dried herbs. Now, let it simmer with the lid off as long as you need to. 10 minutes or 2 hours. The longer it simmers, the thicker the sauce will be. If the sauce is getting too thick, just put the lid back on. Once you spoon the sauce over the pasta, sprinkle the basil on top. Serves 4.


12 Responses to “My Grandma Rose’s Simple Pasta Sauce”

  1. Patti Howe Says:

    A lucious description of Grandma’s sauce, that you have captured precisely. I believe we will enjoy this pasta dish tonight for dinner. Thank’s for the inspiration and ease of preparation!

  2. Matthew Quagliato Says:

    hello there chef “BB”……… ro made her own version of this yummy sauce tonight………my favorite!!!!

  3. Thanks Matt! I loved the pics of the twins birthday party by the way!

  4. Richard Cathcart Says:

    I added red pepper flakes to my favorite pasta sauce recipe and it really makes it delicious. Keep on spreading the good cooking advice.

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