Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce

I feel so accomplished. In the last couple of days, I learned to bake my mother’s bread recipe, got some of my daughter’s school-clothes shopping done and had a marathon canning session for tomato sauce and salsa. I’m pooped — and my mother is definitely ready to head back home!

My tomato sauce is the recipe that my sister brought back from Italy. She was an AFS exchange student the year after high school and was very fortunate to end up with a terrific family in Turin, Italy. My sister and their daughter, Chicca (pronounced Kee-ka), remain friends to this day. My sister said that Chicca’s grandmother made the sauce each morning for the noon  meal. Chicca’s family lives on the outside of town; they are part of a farm co-op. Each day the family and workers break for their big meal which always includes a tomato sauce over something.

Dinner with Chicca- 1979

We visited Chicca in 1979 — I was 14 years old! This is Chicca in yellow, I’m in red, my mom is on the right and my future brother-in-law is on the left!


It is a simple sauce, and of course, I can it. A similar recipe is in the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, a must-have book for serious Italian cooking.

Chicca’s Nonna’s Tomato Sauce

Makes about 6 servings

Fresh Ripe Tomatoes: 4 Large (such as Beefsteak) and 5 to 10 Romas

½ C Olive Oil

1 Clove Crushed Garlic

1 C Chopped Carrots

1 C Chopped Celery

1 C Chopped Onion

½ C Chopped Zucchini

½ C Chopped Mushrooms

1 C Red Wine

Salt and Pepper

Start by blanching the tomatoes. Dunk them boiling water for about a minute and set aside in a bowl. They may split open, it is OK if they don’t.


In a large stock pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil. When the onions turn translucent, add the carrots. After a few minutes add the celery and zucchini. When these look cooked (kind of “wilted” and shiny) add the mushrooms and half of the wine.


At this point I also add some of the salt and pepper — maybe about a teaspoon of each.

Start adding the tomatoes. Working over the top of the stock pot, cut the core out of the tomato (let the juice fall into the pot) and remove the skin, which you will discard, and cut up the tomato into the pot. I add the big tomatoes first and then the romas. These, I just slit the top and squish them into the pot, discarding the skin. Add the rest of the wine.

Now, begin tasting your sauce. Add more wine or salt and pepper, whatever is needed. This year (just for fun) I also added golden oregano that my daughter grows at the edge of our patio.


Let your sauce simmer and reduce for at least a half hour.

You all know my tomato growing disaster this year — so I bought my tomatoes from BiZi Farms. Actually, I got all the ingredients from BiZi Farms (except the romas — I have one plant of those!) And my mom, daughter and I all agree that this year’s sauce is the best I have ever made!





Janine Blackwell

Janine Blackwell

Food has always been a main focus of my family life! At 12 years old I picked berries during the summer and at 15 I started work in the local cannery. This was my summer job all through college (my father was the production manager for Norpac Foods for 30 years, so I had an in!) Each summer my mom would can and preserve fruit and vegetables so we could have "good stuff" all year long. I attended a cooking school while I lived in England for about a year, but my life took a different turn and I did not go into food professionally. My sister owns a restaurant in Colorado and my brother works for a blueberry processing plant in Silverton, OR. Like I said- a family affair! I teach video and film at Columbia River HS (love it) but I also love to cook, can and preserve. I work to use as much home grown, locally produced and organic product as I possibly can.

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