Cecilia's Big Fat Italian Family's Tomato Sauce

By Cecilia Nasti

In truth, there was no such thing as a standardized recipe for savory dishes in my family, and I follow that tradition to this day. Any and everything can go into this sauce—and has. Nevertheless, I have done my best to document the most no-frills version of our family’s tomato sauce, or as my father’s family called it, “gravy.”

Super easy

Cecilia's Big Fat Italian Family's Tomato Sauce


For 1 Person(s)


  • 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 6-oz. can of Contadina tomato paste
  • 2 35-oz. cans Cento whole peeled tomatoes (4 lbs. fresh peeled plum tomatoes may be substituted)
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or 1/4 tsp. red pepper powder
  • 1 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Salt and pepper

Cecilia's Big Fat Italian Family's Tomato Sauce Directions

  1. In a deep, heavy pot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When hot, add tomato paste and brown slightly—add more oil if necessary. Add the onions and garlic and cook until tender. Add salt, pepper and rosemary, and heat through.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, juices and all. Break up tomatoes with spoon or potato masher. Heat through.
  3. Add the wine and sugar or baking soda (to cut acidity), and simmer for at least an hour and a half.
  4. Toss in the basil at end of cooking and stir. Recheck seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed. Spoon the sauce over cooked pasta, or use in any recipe calling for tomato sauce.

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