Grampa’s Pasta Sauce

So, for those that do not know me, I’m 50% Italian. Or more accurately  25% Sicilian and 25% Sardinian. My grandfather on my dad’s side is from Sardinia, the small island just north of Sicily. Sicily being the “ball” that the “boot” of Italy is kicking.  When my Grampa Angelo was young, he moved to Genoa (Genova) and then joined the Italian navy as a cook. Shortly thereafter, he arrived in the United States and met my Gramma. The rest is history, or more, ‘her-story’. bahaha, get it? Anyways….

My Grampa's four son's and only grandsonMy Grampa used to cook all sorts of fantastic dishes when I was young, lots of fish and seafood that I was much to squeamish to try at the time. Unfortunately, he passed away before I came to terms with the squiggly-ness of calamari (now I love it). You have to understand that I grew up in and around Chicago. The middle of the country. We had lakes and rivers so the catfish and some river trout were alright, but most seafood was far from local. As such, I was not raised with much seafood other than fish sticks (Breaded pieces of unnamed fish arriving in peculiar shapes from the freezer section of the grocery store.) When I got a little older my dad started cooking more imported fish like the orange roughy and some shellfish, like crabs occasionally. My mom being allergic to some shellfish, didn’t venture much further than the occasional shrimp and cocktail sauce until we got through high school (not to dis shrimp and cocktail sauce, yummy!). I’m sad that I didn’t get to grow up with seafood, but I’m happy that I’m able to have all of these new culinary experiences now. But back to my point, many, if not all but one of my Grampa’s recipes were lost when he fell ill with cancer and passed away more than 12 years ago. (Write down your favorite recipes folks! Share them!!) My dad continues to make my Grampa’s pasta sauce on occasion and has his own recipes which he he has shared with my sister and I. This year, since Andrew and I are so far from home, I made my Grampa’s sauce to bring a little bit of my home to Auckland.

Me with my dad and siblingsMy dad and IOn Christmas, my Grampa would whip up lasagna with his pasta sauce; it’s the best sauce that I’ve ever had. In fact, 6 years ago when I visited my sister while she was studying in Italy we went to a very small restaurant in a tiny little town in the hills of Tuscany. The first thing we thought when we walked in through the doors was that this place smelled exactly like my Grampa was cooking in there. The only surefire way I know to make that beautiful smell is to cook up some of my Grampa’s pasta sauce.


2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Clove garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound beef (I prefer a mix of ground beef and oxtail, I also substituted for beef shoulder here in NZ)

1 pound pork (I prefer ground pork (you can buy sausages and empty meat from casing) but my dad prefers a mix with pig’s feet)

2 Tablespoons Basil

2 Tablespoons Parsley (fresh if possible)

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Oregano

½ teaspoon Pepper

½ teaspoon Rosemary

¼ teaspoon Sugar

12 oz can of Tomato Paste

29 oz can of Tomato Puree

29 oz Water

½ cup Green Peppers, diced (can use more or less to taste)

½ cup Mushrooms, diced (can use more or less to taste)

In large pot add olive oil, garlic and onions. Turn on heat. Add the beef and pork and start to brown. Add the spices and continue to stir. Brown well. Add the tomato paste, tomato puree and water. Finally, add the green peppers and mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer and cover with lid. Stir once an hour for about 4 hours or until meat falls off bone (if using any bone-in meat such as pig’s feet, oxtail or beef shoulder). Remove bone, returning meat to pot. Continue to simmer for another hour or so. You may skim off the fat from the top of the pot in the last hour if you’d like.

This sauce goes great with spaghetti and makes a hearty lasagna too. I like to top with Parmesan cheese. Mmmm!

Pasta... Mmmm