Nonna’s Sugo Recipe: How to Make Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce at Home

Hello, Good News! Welcome to our blog, where we share the best recipes from around the world. Today, we are going to show you how to make nonna’s sugo, or grandma’s tomato sauce, a classic Italian dish that is easy, delicious, and versatile. Nonna’s sugo is a staple in many Italian households, and it can be used to dress pasta, meat, fish, or vegetables. It is also a great way to use up fresh tomatoes from your garden or farmers’ market.

Nonna’s sugo is not just a sauce, it is a tradition. It is a way of cooking that has been passed down from generation to generation, and that reflects the love and care of Italian grandmothers. Nonna’s sugo is made with simple ingredients, but it requires patience and attention to detail. It is not something you can whip up in a few minutes, but rather something you have to simmer for hours, stirring occasionally and adding herbs and spices to taste. The result is a rich and flavorful sauce that will make your mouth water.

What is Nonna’s Sugo?

Nonna’s sugo is a type of tomato sauce that originated in Italy and that is typically made by grandmothers (nonnas) for their families. The word “sugo” means “juice” or “sauce” in Italian, and it refers to the liquid that is extracted from the tomatoes during the cooking process. Nonna’s sugo is different from other tomato sauces because it is cooked for a long time, usually over low heat, until it becomes thick and concentrated. This gives it a deep red color and a complex flavor that can vary depending on the region, the season, and the personal preferences of the cook.

Nonna’s sugo is usually made with fresh tomatoes, but canned tomatoes can also be used if fresh ones are not available. The tomatoes are peeled, chopped, and cooked with olive oil, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, salt, pepper, and sometimes bay leaves or other herbs. Some nonnas also add meat, such as pork ribs, beef chunks, or sausage, to their sugo, while others keep it vegetarian. The sauce is then simmered for several hours, until it reaches the desired consistency and taste. Nonna’s sugo can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months.

How to Peel Tomatoes for Nonna’s Sugo

One of the most important steps in making nonna’s sugo is peeling the tomatoes. This will ensure that the sauce has a smooth texture and no bits of skin. Peeling tomatoes may seem like a tedious task, but it is actually quite easy if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife.
  3. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 15 seconds, or until the skin starts to loosen.
  4. Remove the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Peel off the skin with your fingers or a paring knife.
  6. Core and chop the tomatoes as desired.

How to Season Nonna’s Sugo

Another key factor in making nonna’s sugo is seasoning it properly. Seasoning is not just about adding salt and pepper, but also about enhancing the flavor of the tomatoes with herbs and spices. There is no one right way to season nonna’s sugo, as different regions and families have their own preferences and traditions. However, here are some common ingredients that you can use to season your sugo:

  • Garlic: Garlic adds a pungent and aromatic touch to nonna’s sugo. You can use whole cloves or minced garlic, depending on how strong you want the flavor to be. You can also roast the garlic before adding it to the sauce for a sweeter and milder taste.
  • Onion: Onion adds sweetness and depth to nonna’s sugo. You can use white or yellow onion, chopped or sliced thinly. You can also use shallots or leeks for a more delicate flavor.
  • Carrot: Carrot adds color and sweetness to nonna’s sugo. You can use whole or chopped carrot, depending on how chunky you want your sauce to be. You can also use parsnip or turnip for a similar effect.
  • Celery: Celery adds crunch and freshness to nonna’s sugo. You can use whole or chopped celery, depending on how chunky you want your sauce to be. You can also use fennel or celeriac for a different flavor.
  • Bay leaves: Bay leaves add a subtle and earthy flavor to nonna’s sugo. You can use fresh or dried bay leaves, but make sure to remove them before serving the sauce.
  • Oregano: Oregano adds a herbaceous and aromatic flavor to nonna’s sugo. You can use fresh or dried oregano, but be careful not to overdo it, as it can overpower the other flavors.
  • Basil: Basil adds a fresh and fragrant flavor to nonna’s sugo. You can use fresh or dried basil, but fresh basil is preferable, as it has a more intense and bright flavor. You can also use mint or parsley for a different twist.
  • Thyme: Thyme adds a lemony and floral flavor to nonna’s sugo. You can use fresh or dried thyme, but fresh thyme is preferable, as it has a more delicate and complex flavor. You can also use rosemary or sage for a different twist.
  • Red pepper flakes: Red pepper flakes add a spicy and smoky flavor to nonna’s sugo. You can use more or less red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you want your sauce to be. You can also use cayenne pepper or paprika for a similar effect.
  • Sugar: Sugar adds a touch of sweetness and balance to nonna’s sugo. You can use white or brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup, depending on your preference. You can also omit the sugar if you prefer a more acidic sauce.

How to Use Nonna’s Sugo

Nonna’s sugo is a versatile sauce that can be used in many ways. Here are some of the most common and delicious ways to use nonna’s sugo:

  • Pasta: Pasta is the most classic and simple way to enjoy nonna’s sugo. You can use any type of pasta you like, such as spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, or fusilli. Cook the pasta al dente in salted water, drain it, and toss it with the sauce in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top and serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
  • Meatballs: Meatballs are another traditional and hearty way to enjoy nonna’s sugo. You can make your own meatballs with ground beef, pork, veal, or turkey, mixed with bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Shape the mixture into balls and brown them in a skillet with some olive oil. Transfer them to a baking dish and cover them with the sauce. Bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180°C (350°F) until cooked through. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice.
  • Lasagna: Lasagna is a layered and cheesy way to enjoy nonna’s sugo. You can use ready-made lasagna sheets or make your own with flour, eggs, salt, and water. Spread some sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and cover it with a layer of lasagna sheets. Spread some ricotta cheese mixed with eggs and parsley over the lasagna sheets and sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on top. Repeat with another layer of sauce, lasagna sheets, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Finish with a final layer of sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 200°C (400°F) until bubbly and golden. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
  • Pizza: Pizza is a fun and easy way to enjoy nonna’s sugo. You can use ready-made pizza dough or make your own with flour, yeast, water, salt, and oil. Stretch the dough into a thin circle and place it on a baking sheet sprinkled with some cornmeal. Spread some sauce over the dough and top it with your favorite toppings, such as cheese, ham, mushrooms, olives, or pineapple. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 220°C (425°F) until crisp and melted. Cut into slices and enjoy.
  • Soup: Soup is a warm and comforting way to enjoy nonna’s sugo. You can use any type of broth you like, such as chicken, beef, or vegetable. Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot and add some pasta shapes, such as stars, shells, or alphabet letters. Cook until the pasta is tender, then stir in some sauce and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with some chopped basil or parsley.

How to Make Nonna’s Sugo

Now that you know what nonna’s sugo is, how to season it, and how to use it, you may be wondering how to make it yourself. Making nonna’s sugo is not difficult, but it does require some time and patience. Here are the basic steps to make nonna’s sugo:

  1. Prepare the ingredients: Peel, chop, and measure the tomatoes, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and any other vegetables you want to use. You can also prepare the meat if you are using any, by cutting it into bite-sized pieces and seasoning it with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook the sauce: Heat some olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until soft and fragrant, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices you want to use. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If you are using meat, you can add it after the first hour of simmering. You can also add some water or wine if the sauce becomes too thick or dry.
  3. Taste and adjust: After 3 hours of simmering, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more salt, pepper, sugar, herbs, or spices to suit your taste. You can also blend the sauce with an immersion blender if you prefer a smoother texture.
  4. Enjoy: Your nonna’s sugo is ready to use or store. You can serve it hot over your favorite pasta, meatballs, lasagna, pizza, or soup. You can also let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months.

A Detailed Table Breakdown of Nonna’s Sugo

To give you a better idea of what goes into nonna’s sugo, here is a detailed table breakdown of the ingredients, quantities, and nutritional values of a typical batch of nonna’s sugo. This table assumes that you are using fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, sugar, and no meat. The quantities are based on making about 8 cups of sauce (enough for 16 servings), and the nutritional values are based on one serving (1/2 cup) of sauce.

| Ingredient | Quantity | Calories | Fat | Carbs | Protein | Fiber | Sugar |
|————|———-|———-|—–|——-|———|——-|——-|
| Tomatoes | 4 kg | 360 | 4 g | 80 g | 20 g | 24 g | 56 g |
| Olive oil | 1/4 cup | 477 | 54 g | 0 g | 0 g | 0 g | 0 g |
| Garlic | 8 cloves | 36 | 0 g | 8 g | 2 g | 0 g | 0 g |
| Onion | 1 large | 64 | 0 g | 15 g | 2 g | 3 g | 7 g |
| Carrot | 1 large | 30 | 0 g | 7 g | 1 g | 2 g | 4 g |
| Celery | 2 stalks | 13 | 0 g | 3 g | 1 g | 2 g | 2 g |
| Bay leaves | 2 | – |- |- |- |- |- |
| Salt | To taste |- |- |- |- |- |- |
| Pepper | To taste |- |- |- |- |- |- |
| Oregano | To taste |- |- |- |- |- |- |
| Basil | To taste |- |- |- |- |- |- |
| Sugar | To taste |- |- |- |- |- |- |
| **Total** || **980** || **58** || **113** || **26** || **31** || **69** |

FAQs About Nonna’s Sugo

Here are some frequently asked questions about nonna’s sugo that you may find helpful:

What is the difference between nonna’s sugo and marinara sauce?

Nonna’s sugo and marinara sauce are both tomato-based sauces, but they have some differences. Nonna’s sugo is cooked for a long time, usually over low heat, until it becomes thick and concentrated. Marinara sauce is cooked for a shorter time, usually over high heat, until it becomes thin and watery. Nonna’s sugo has a rich and complex flavor, while marinara sauce has a light and fresh flavor. Nonna’s sugo may also contain meat, while marinara sauce is usually vegetarian.

Can I make nonna’s sugo in a slow cooker or an instant pot?

Yes, you can make nonna’s sugo in a slow cooker or an instant pot, but you may need to adjust the cooking time and the amount of liquid. For a slow cooker, you can follow the same steps as above, but cook the sauce on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours. For an instant pot, you can follow the same steps as above, but cook the sauce on high pressure for 15 to 20 minutes, then release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes.

Can I make nonna’s sugo with canned tomatoes?

Yes, you can make nonna’s sugo with canned tomatoes, but you may need to adjust the quantity and the seasoning. For canned tomatoes, you can use about 2 kg of whole peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. You may also need to add more salt, sugar, or herbs to balance the acidity and the flavor of the canned tomatoes.

Can I make nonna’s sugo with fresh herbs?

Yes, you can make nonna’s sugo with fresh herbs, but you may need to adjust the quantity and the timing. For fresh herbs, you can use about 1/4 cup of chopped oregano and 1/2 cup of chopped basil. You may also need to add them later in the cooking process, about 30 minutes before the sauce is done, to preserve their flavor and color.

Can I freeze nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can freeze nonna’s sugo for up to six months. To freeze nonna’s sugo, let it cool completely and transfer it to freezer-safe containers or ziplock bags. Label and date the containers or bags and store them in the freezer. To thaw nonna’s sugo, place it in the refrigerator overnight or in a bowl of cold water for a few hours. To reheat nonna’s sugo, place it in a pot over medium-low heat and stir occasionally until hot.

Can I add cheese to nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can add cheese to nonna’s sugo, but you may want to do it at the end of the cooking process or when serving the sauce. Cheese can add creaminess and saltiness to nonna’s sugo, but it can also affect the texture and the flavor of the sauce. Some cheeses that go well with nonna’s sugo are Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, Mozzarella, Ricotta, or Mascarpone.

Can I add wine to nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can add wine to nonna’s sugo, but you may want to do it at the beginning of the cooking process or when adding the tomatoes. Wine can add acidity and complexity to nonna’s sugo, but it can also affect the color and the taste of the sauce. Some wines that go well with nonna’s sugo are red wines, such as Chianti, Sangiovese, or Merlot.

Can I add mushrooms to nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can add mushrooms to nonna’s sugo, but you may want to do it after sautéing the garlic and onion or when adding the meat. Mushrooms can add umami and texture to nonna’s sugo, but they can also affect the moisture and the consistency of the sauce. Some mushrooms that go well with nonna’s sugo are button mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, or shiitake mushrooms.

Can I add olives to nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can add olives to nonna’s sugo, but you may want to do it near the end of the cooking process or when serving the sauce. Olives can add saltiness and tanginess to nonna’s sugo, but they can also affect the color and the balance of the sauce. Some olives thatgo well with nonna’s sugo are black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, or capers.

Can I add capers to nonna’s sugo?

Yes, you can add capers to nonna’s sugo, but you may want to do it near the end of the cooking process or when serving the sauce. Capers can add saltiness and tanginess to nonna’s sugo, but they can also affect the color and the balance of the sauce. Some capers that go well with nonna’s sugo are small capers, large capers, or caper berries.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this article about nonna’s sugo and learned how to make authentic Italian tomato sauce at home. Nonna’s sugo is a delicious and versatile sauce that can be used for pasta, meatballs, lasagna, pizza, soup, and more. It is also a great way to use up fresh tomatoes and enjoy the flavors of Italy. Nonna’s sugo is not just a sauce, it is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, and that reflects the love and care of Italian grandmothers.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family. You can also check out our other articles for more recipes and tips on cooking, baking, gardening, and more. Thank you for reading and happy cooking!