Nonna’s Red Sauce

March 23, 2020
Blog post

Like most Americans, we are quarantining right now. It is such a strange time in the world and can feel really overwhelming and scary. So in an effort to make things light and happy, we are counting our blessings and trying to make the best of this time. I am a stay at home mom, so quarantine life isn’t all that different from my everyday life haha. But I love having Joey here everyday working from home and I am taking full advantage of this extra family time and doing all the things we love. Our days have been filled with lots of cooking, eating, hanging out in the backyard, at-home happy hours, baking, Rumikub, picnics, puzzles and Facetimes with friends and family.

One of the first recipes I made during this quarantine was my Nonna’s Red Sauce. Not only are the ingredients for this sauce always in my pantry (minus the meat), but it is the most comforting meal. Who doesn’t love a big bowl of pasta and red sauce?! This recipe has such a special place in my heart because it was my Nonna’s recipe. One of my favorite parts about making this sauce is how good it makes my house smell. It feels nostalgic and reminds me SO much of my Nonna. Her house always smelled like Italian food. I know I’ve written about her before, but she was the best cook ever. It was so effortless for her and everything she made was simple yet delicious. She never followed a recipe and never actually measured anything while cooking. Thankfully, I spent lots of time cooking with her and was able to write down her recipes.

My Nonna could always take any random ingredient and make something amazing out of it. She would make do with whatever you gave her, almost like an episode of “Chopped.” We always used to laugh at her garage, which she converted into what could best be described as an Italian market. If you’ve been to Italy, you know what I’m talking about. She had crates of produce stacked everywhere along with cabinets full of pasta, canned veggies, sauces, rice, beans etc. She would probably have been able to quarantine in there for at least a year. This recipe makes a ton of sauce. I like to freeze about half of it so that I can have some whenever I feel the craving. My Nonna has always inspired my cooking, but now more than ever. Given our current situation, I am trying to be more creative with the ingredients that I have, stretch them to make even more food, not waste anything and just continue to have a well stocked pantry.


Serves 8 – 10


  • 2 – 3 lb boneless chuck beef roast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt

Optional Toppings:

  • Burrata Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Basil


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and allow it to get very hot. Generously season the roast with salt. Then add the meat to the pan. Cook each side for a couple minutes until you get a nice sear on the meat. Remove the meat and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple minutes. Then add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir. Next, add the baking soda and mix. This will cause the sauce to bubble a bit. My Nonna always did this step as a way to help cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Next, add the chicken broth and stir. Place the meat back into the pot and secure the lid on the pot. Put the pot into the oven and cook for 4 to 5 hours, depending on the size of your roast. I personally like to cook the sauce as long as possible to deepen the flavor.

Once the sauce is done, remove the pot from the oven. The meat will be perfectly cooked and will start to fall apart. Use two forks the help shred the meat. Season with salt to taste. Serve over pasta (Homemade Pasta recipe here). Top with parmesan cheese, burrata or both!




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