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Nana's Sauce

(recipe, Nancy Rommelmann)

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Unlike many tomato-sauce recipes, which will accommodate whatever you want to toss in, this recipe works best made exactly as is. The Hunt’s canned tomato sauce is non-negotiable; I wish I had a nickel for every time someone to whom I gave the recipe told me, “It didn’t taste like yours," only to have them look at their feet when I asked, “Did you use the Hunt’s?” And use dried herbs only. I’ve tried to get fancy by using fresh; the sauce turned out worse rather than better. Ditto adding tomato paste and red wine. My mother has been known to throw a few sautéed Italian sausages into the mix, with good results. But to me, it’s gilding the lily.


  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 medium onions, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  4. 2 lb. ground hamburger meat
  5. Six cans (29-ounce size) Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
  6. 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  7. 2 Tbsp. dried basil
  8. A little black pepper


  1. Pour the olive oil into a very large, heavy-bottomed pot and warm over medium heat. (Don’t use a thin-bottomed pot; it will scorch the sauce.) Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook one minute. Add the chopped hamburger and cook until it loses its red color. Add the tomato sauce, herbs, and pepper. Stir well.
  2. Turn the flame to its lowest level and cook, partially covered, for three hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so, scraping the sides of the pot and especially the bottom, to prevent the sauce from burning.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat and cool. Transfer as much as you like to plastic containers to freeze. The fresh sauce keeps in the refrigerator, covered, up to a week. Use about three cups per pound of pasta.


Read more about Nancy Rommelmann's Italian heritage.