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Mamma Giuseppina’s Tomato Sauce (Otherwise known as “The Sauce” or, in some households, “Sunday Gravy”)

Updated on October 25, 2014

There are many kinds of sauces for pasta; this version is the recipe handed down from generation to generation in my mother's family.

My mother’s family came from the town of Forio on the island of Ischia, about 18 miles away from Naples. This recipe was passed down from her mother and now I make it. Each time it’s a little different as the cook can adjust a little for taste (add a little red wine, for instance, use more or less onion, etc.) but it is basically a meat-based tomato sauce which is delicious. By the way, some Italian-Americans refer to this as “gravy,” which is actually accurate as it is meat-based. Whatever you want to call it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! By the way, in case you’re wondering, Giuseppina means “Josephine.”

My mother:  Maria Giuseppina Bevilacqua (nee Regine) - 1908-1986 - What a cook!
My mother: Maria Giuseppina Bevilacqua (nee Regine) - 1908-1986 - What a cook!


(This will make enough for 2-4 four people – cut amounts in half
for smaller portions)

1 lb. lean ground beef
2-3 pieces pork tenderloin (say, ½ lb.)
1 lb. to 1 ½ lbs. Italian sausage (I prefer hot)
2 cans Italian tomatoes (Pastene or Cento, for example)**
2 cans tomato paste
3-4 cloves fresh garlic
minced onion
bread crumbs
1 egg
olive oil

Olio d'olivo
Olio d'olivo


In a large pot, place 4 tablespoons of olive oil chopped garlic cloves (3 or 4, finely chopped or crushed), salt and pepper and other seasonings (onion, basil, parsley – a few pinches of each) – over low heat until garlic is brown (some people take out the garlic at this point – I leave it in)- add sausage and pork – (you can also add some pieces of veal if you like) - cook over low heat until brown (a good 30-45 minutes depending on your stove) – add tomatoes at this point – twenty minutes later, add the paste (1 can for each can of tomatoes)- let simmer for 2 ½ hours, stir every 10 minutes or so (LOW HEAT). (I cover the pot, but not all the way.) While this is cooking, take your ground beef, add one egg (1 egg per pound) and mix in with breadcrumbs (you gotta get your hands into this) in a bowl. When the consistency is right, make into meatballs about 1 ½ inches across. After the sauce has simmered for the 2 ½ hours, stir in the meatballs (which, hopefully, you kept in the refrigerator in the meantime) and cook for another 45 minutes. Note: some people prefer to brown the meatballs in a frying pan prior to adding to the sauce. I don’t care for this as it tends to add a light crust to the meatballs but that’s up to you. If you add the raw meatballs directly as I do, just make sure they cook all the way through. 45 minutes to one hour usually does the trick.

Italian families will typically take out the meat, spoon the sauce over freshly cooked pasta (Rigatoni, or Mezzani, say– this sauce is too good for mere spaghetti) and serve the meat after the pasta with fresh Italian bread and salad (yes, that’s right – we eat the salad last). Mangia! Oh, and don’t forget the wine!

*you can substitute tomato puree for tomatoes but, if you do,
you halve the tomato paste (1 can for every two of tomatoes)
or the sauce gets too thick . . .


Like My Recipe?

5 stars from 4 ratings of Italian Food


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    • profile image

      Cousin Ella 

      8 years ago

      A Great recipe, your Mother was a great cook, I tasted some delicious meals. Beautiful picture of her. Love cuz

    • profile image

      Cousin Chris 

      8 years ago

      Good Job. I like to put a little grated cheese in my meatballs and a little olive oil. The secret is that you don't measure anything. My Wife says you also have to add a little love.

    • profile image

      marinade for barbecue 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for your visit and your uplifting comment. Cheers and Happy Hubbing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your Mamma Giuseppinas tomato sauce--it looks wonderful! I'm looking forward to making good use of our homegrown tomatoes this summer.

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Dirt Farmer - thank you - I added it!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hi ALEXDRINKH2O! Your recipe sounds great & your intro to it is charming. You should go back into edit mode and add a ratings capsule. That way readers can give your recipe some feedback and it will be more searchable. All the best, Jill

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Interesting version of meat sauce. I prefer my ground meat cooked into little bits and I sauté it with the garlic and spices before adding the tomatoes. There is no wrong way to make sauce. I can feel the pride you have for your Mom and her recipe. Good job.


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