The best spaghetti sauce in the west… MINE.

I grew up with the succulent scent of homemade spaghetti sauce filling the air. I’m talking all-day on-the-stove torment pushing the bounds of any little girl’s patience*. I’m pretty sure the original recipe came from my Malvini great-grandparents, which makes sense as they emigrated** directly from the “old country” as they say (on TV).  Dad’s got a variation, mom’s got a variation and now Shawna does, too. As the process is somewhat labor intensive, I seem to delay sauce making for years at a time. But thanks to my new 20-quart stock pot, I may not run out of sauce until 2020 which is good because this sauce is the best ever. Ever, ever. (Always modest with my cooking you know.)

I digress.

If you have an hour or so to prep and a few hours to simmer, you will not be disappointed! (Note, the proportions listed below are approximate. Scale to fit and/or adjust to taste.)

Shawna’s Spaghetti Sauce

Do not less the mess of ingredients intimidate you!


  • Lots of canned*** tomato sauce. I used 10 16-oz cans because they were languishing in my pantry and again, I planned to make a gallon or two. I think my mom uses a couple 28-oz cans.
  • Crushed tomatoes. For me, 1 28-oz can did the trick.
  • Diced tomatoes. I tossed in two or three 16-oz cans of petite diced tomatoes. I am less enthralled with giant chunks of tomato myself and avoid larger cuts.
  • Tomato paste. I went with a large can which really seemed to improve sauce thickness. (First day sauce tends to be thin for me.)
  • Black olives, sliced. I’m an olive fanatic. I used one 16-oz can and could’ve included two.
  • Mushrooms, sliced. My favorite! I tend to default to white buttons, but for this recipe, I mixed two 10-oz packages of baby bellas and buttons. Delish!
  • Red onion, chopped. Since I shop at Costco, I had two gigantic red onions to slice.
  • Garlic, pressed or diced. No messing around here. At least 10-15 cloves of garlic, smashed.
  • Italian sausage links. Normally I get the spicy Italian but sweet was on sale. I used one package, although for the scale of my sauce, I’d use two next time.
  • Hamburger. Ditto the sausage comment. I used one pound and would’ve preferred a bit more.
  • Red wine. I incorporated a cup into the sauce and a generous splash into the sautéed mushrooms. The alcohol cooks away and leaves a beautiful, rich flavor behind.
  • Italian seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes. Heavy on the Italian seasoning, oregano and pepper. I also threw in a few cubes of frozen basil at the end for lack of fresh. A bit of salt to taste and cayenne and red pepper for bite. You may fear the spice, but the hot ones add a nice edge without the burn. I probably added a tablespoon of flakes and a teaspoon of cayenne. Don’t be shy!
  • Sugar. To cut the acid, I sprinkled in a few tablespoons sugar.
  • Butter or olive oil. To saute the mushrooms, I melted two tablespoons of butter. Olive oil would work fine, too.

1. In a stock pot, throw in all of your tomato products and the sliced olives. Over medium-low heat, start them simmering. Take care with the heat during the entire process. You want to get the sauce to just bubble and then turn the heat down to a low simmer. Burning the bottom will ruin your sauce.

2. While the tomatoes warm up (took forever for me!), chop onions and cook the sausage links according to package instructions. This took 20 minutes for me. Let the sausages cool on a plate with paper toweling.

Maybe I am an overly-delicate flower, but I find chopping onions to be a ridiculously painful, tear-ridden chore. To compensate, I keep these totally HOT Speedo swimming goggles in my kitchen at all times. While they don’t protect my nose from the burn, my eyes escape chopping unscathed. And Mr. T thinks they’re sexy. (Ha!)
No matter what I do, my sausages always blacken. Doesn’t change the flavor though.

3. Brown the hamburger with onions, a bit of salt and black pepper. When done, strain the fat and throw the mix into your stock pot.

4. If the links are cool enough to touch, slice them into discs and toss into the sauce.
5. If you’re in a bind for time, you can throw the mushrooms straight into the sauce, but I find a quick sauté really adds to the flavor. Melt butter or warm up your oil. Toss in your onions for a minute, then your monster wad of garlic for a minute, before finally adding the mushrooms. Sauté until they cook down and most of the water evaporates. I added a few generous splashes of wine for more flavor. When you can’t stand the amazing aroma any longer, throw them into the pot.

The chopping may kill my eyes, but the smell of onions cooking is divine.


Plus garlic? I die!


When I want to dress up bottled sauce, sauté mushrooms like this and dump them in with a bit of extra vino. Makes Prego a little closer to perfection.

6. Bring your sauce just barely to a bubble and then simmer, stirring occasionally. (Somewhere in there, add the wine and stir well)
7. After an hour, add spices and stir well. Simmer, simmer, simmer.
8. Simmer as long as you can, adding more spices to taste as you go. Serve over pasta or drink straight. 😉

I can’t wait to make lasagna with this stuff!

9. Allow to cool a bit before storing, it also freeze well.

Making sauce in mass quantities tests the bounds of my tupperware drawer. I really need to learn how to can sauce so I can save freezer space!

Happy eating!


* However, the long duration on the stove did afford time to steal sausage pieces from the pot under the guise of stirring. Do not tell my mother.
** According to my extensive five-second research, emigrate refers to leaving a particular place, while immigrate refers to arriving in a new place e.g. my family emigrated FROM Italy and immigrated TO America.
*** Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I were a real Italian, I’d make my own sauce from scratch but who has that kind of time during the holidays?

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