Mama Leone's Italian Tomato Sauce (Good for Many Uses)

Total Time
3hrs 10mins
Prep 10 mins
Cook 3 hrs

I grew up across the street from a real Mama Leone—an amazing Irish woman who had an Italian husband and a live-in Italian mother-in-law who taught her to cook. This awesome recipe was a neighbourhood favourite. It has been equally popular with everyone who has ever tasted it. It is an all-purpose Italian sauce. I usually make it for spaghetti and have added optional instructions for that purpose. Without the meat, it is vegan friendly. It's also a good pizza sauce base. You can add other herbs, spices and vegetables if you like, but we have always kept it simple. That's why once it was a lifesaver for a friend who is allergic to garlic. The sauce freezes extremely well.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 16 ounces tomato sauce (puree)
  • 16 ounces tomato paste (concentrate)
  • 80 ounces water (that's five cans of water from the tomato cans you've used)
  • 3 teaspoons salt (the original recipe called for six, but that is way too salty these days)
  • 14 cup white sugar
  • 14 teaspoon cinnamon (some friends who make this insist they need to use more cinnamon. I have a very good quality cinnamo)
  • 2 dried hot red chiles (you can substitute chilli flakes about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs lean hamburger (optional)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (optional)


  1. Put all ingredients (except the meat and onions) in a large pot.
  2. Stir well and bring to a boil. Continue to stir occasionally until it boils, so the cinnamon is incorporated.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for three to four hours. Continue to stir occasionally. You can speed up this step, if you leave it on a boil, but I think the flavour improves if it is not rushed.
  4. The sauce needs to cook until it bloops—namely until the sauce splashes out of the pot and makes a bit of a mess on the stove top (or wall in my case).
  5. Remove and discard the chillies and bay leaves.
  6. What to do next if you intend to serve this sauce over pasta. Saute the beef until it loses most of its pink colouring, then add the onions and saute until tender.
  7. Drain off any fat.
  8. Add meat mixture to cooked sauce and stir well.
  9. Heat the mixture well, then ladle over pasta.


Most Helpful

I cut back on the salt a little and did not add chilli, but everything else as per recipe.<br/>This was a great sauce for our pasta, a touch of parmesan and served with garlic bread, this made for a wonderful dinner.<br/>Can't wait to try this in the crock pot as on reviewer did!<br/>Thanks Leggy Peggy, this was enjoyed by all.

Tisme October 14, 2013

Made as directed (without the hot chiles) and I let this cook in my crockpot all day, and the aroma was super. I added ground beef to a little to serve over spaghetti, and saved 6 small cartons in the freezer so I can make quick and easy dinners making meatballs or lasagns, rigatoni or rice. Very versatile and tasty. Thanks for posting a keeper Peggy. Made for Recipe Swap #49.

ElaineAnn February 23, 2011

This is old fashioned sauce! My friend's mom used to make this every Sunday for dinners and we all loved it through the week. My house smelled so GOOD and reminded so much of my younger teen days. I followed the recipe to the point of cooking on the stove all day. At that point after the boiling, I let cook a bit then transferred to my crockpot. ( I had an appt. so had to leave the house) I cooked on low for several hours and came home to a magnificant smell. We used some for dinner then froze the rest in 1 qt containers. Oh youy have certaily stocked my freezer for sauces. YUMMY. I did use the equivalent of tomatoe puree but from puree I mad from our summer tomatoes. Thank you for Mama's recipe. By the way my friend;s mom was Sixilian married to and Irish man. Must be the blend of Italian and Irish that make this so lovely and aromatic. Made for partner in AUS/NZ Swap Nov 2010.

Chef1MOM-Connie November 21, 2010

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