Grandma Vinny's Sauce

This is from my Italian grandmother, Vincenza. Of course, she never wrote anything down so my sister and I used to follow her around the kitchen when we were young. Now I know some of you are thinking, "what! no garlic???" Vinny was from Naples but she rarely used garlic and when she did she used it sparingly (she'd put it on a wooden pick and fish it out later) but obviously you can use as much garlic as you want.



  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes, peeled and chopped-with juice
  • 4 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 or 3 leaves fresh basil or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)
  • 3 or 4 links Italian sausage, sweet or hot
  • 8 ounces canned mushrooms - or use fresh, washed and sliced

Meat Mixture

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 slices firm bread, soaked in water, squeezed out and crumbled
  • Salt, pepper and onion powder to taste


  1. Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and turn heat to medium. When the oil is hot, saute the celery for about 5 minutes then add the onion and saute both until the onion is limp.
  2. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add a pinch of sugar (takes the acid out of the tomatoes) and the tomato sauce. Season with the basil, salt and pepper.
  3. Add the wine, if using and continue to cook over low heat.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the meat mixture by combining all ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. At this point you can either shape the meat into meatballs and broil them until most of the fat is eliminated and add them to the sauce or saute the mixture in a separate pan, drain off the fat and add the meat loose to the sauce.
  5. Saute the sausages and drain off the fat. You may add them whole or sliced as I do or remove them from the casings entirely.
  6. Add the mushrooms, juice and all if you're using canned. Cook over low heat for an hour and a half to two hours (you can cook it all day if you're so inclined), stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Serves 6 but is easily doubled or tripled.

Posted by liz at

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