This Dame Cooks A Collection of Recipes from Alaska to the South Pacific and Caribbean

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce

03.11.2012 · Posted in Main Dishes

Dad learned to cook in the Navy during WWII aboard a ship in the Virgin Islands.  After the war he was a chef at the Top Hat Cafe in Bremerton, Washington, a naval port and my birthplace.  The words Bolognese and Ragu were not common in the 1940s so it was called Italian Spaghetti Sauce and  the star of the dish was Meatballs.  In fact, I can’t remember ever eating pasta as a child except for spaghetti and meatballs and macaroni and cheese.  Anyway, I inherited this recipe in the 1970s and tweaked the ingredients as our culinary world advanced into the 21st century.  My Italian friends from Milan and Naples love this sauce…and that’s quite an endorsement.  I think fresh herbs is the secret.

This recipe makes enough for 12 servings of lasagna or eggplant parmigiana, 6 extra-large servings of spaghetti, and probably a dozen pizzas, calzones and stromboli.   It freezes well and is always better a day or two after its made.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 large stalk celery, minced
  • 1 lb. ground round or hamburger
  • 1 lb. Italian pork sausage, mild or spicy, casings removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine (or beef stock)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste diluted with 1/4 cup water or juice from tomatoes
  • 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes, crushed with their juice
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. Saute the onions, carrot and celery in olive oil over medium high heat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add all the meat and garlic.  Continue sauteeing and breaking up the meat until it is a fairly small mince.
  3. Add the wine and tomato paste and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes.  If necessary add beef stock or more water if the sauce becomes too thick.
  5. Before serving add the basil, parsley and salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Cook spaghetti noodles according to package instructions.  Add noodles to sauce and toss. Add a little pasta water to the sauce if too thick.  Sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Serve with additional cheese, a crisp salad and garlic bread.
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