Nonna’s Pasta Sauce – Updated For Today’s Busy Lifestyle

My friends in the Italian American communities all have a recipe or two from their nonna, aunt, or close relative that were passed down through generations and became family traditions.  Today’s post is about a close friend Cheri’s nonna.

Her name is Giulia Papini. She was born in a small town of San Leo in 1891. San Leo is just outside the walled city of Arezzo. At the time Giulia was born the town had five families and her future husband was from one of those families. She brought her Italian family traditions to the United States. Her cooking routine revolved around making beef broth on Tuesdays and on Thursdays she would make pasta sauce.

Giulia’s beef broth was made with beefy bones and simmered with vegetables for hours. Once the broth was done, the family dogs were the recipients of a great bone snack. Thursday was sauce day! Giulia made her own meat mixture for her sauce. She used a meat grinder to combine chicken, Italian sausage, beef, parsley, and garlic. She would sauté onions, and celery, add the meat mixture, beef broth, tomatoes, and cook for hours.

2016-09-01-15-21-14We are busy people these days and don’t often have the time to spend watching a pot cook all day, so here is an option for you. You don’t even have to peel the tomatoes! This sauce is made in a crockpot so you can put the ingredients together and let the crockpot do the work. Consider this sauce a base that you can add meat balls, sausage, or whatever other ingredients you favor.


Crockpot Pasta Sauce

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  • • 6 1/4 lbs tomatoes (roma or san marzano's are best, but you can use the variety of tomatoes you like or grow. I throw in some cherry tomatoes sometimes too.)
  • • 1 onion
  • • 2 carrots
  • • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (can use dried)
  • • 2 celery stalks (add celery leaves for extra flavor)
  • • Basil
  • • 1 tablespoon salt
  • • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • • 1/2 cup red wine


  1. Chop ingredients and put in the crockpot (except basil).
  2. Cook on high for 2 hours. Remove the lid and stir. Put the lid back on ajar and cook for an additional 8 hours.
  3. Stir in basil at the end of cooking. You will have a nice chunky sauce. Puree in a blender if you want your sauce smoother.


This amount of vegetables fit into a 6-quart crockpot nicely.


Calories: 738 cal
Carbohydrates: 142 g
Fat: 7 g
Sodium: 7391 g
Protein: 29 g
Fiber: 42 g
Your house will be permeated with a wonderful aroma while this is cooking. When sauce is done, it’s ready to use or freeze.

This is a great recipe when you have an overabundance of tomatoes and they are at their peak. If you don’t grow your own, local farms and farmer’s markets are a great source for tomatoes.

By the way Giulia became a naturalized American citizen in 1929!

2 thoughts on “Nonna’s Pasta Sauce – Updated For Today’s Busy Lifestyle”

  1. Pingback: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs | Christina's Cucina Blog

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