My Grandmother Mary Gentile’s Tomato Sauce


I never knew my maternal birth grandmother Mary Gentile who, so I was told, pronounced the t-i-l-e at the end of her name like you’d pronounce ceramic tile instead of like you’d pronounce lily, which is how it would be in Italy.  I guess she was embarrased about being Italian — she was first generation Italian-American during an era when Italians were often discriminated against.  But for me, when I found out I’m almost 100% Italian, I was excited to learn all of my ancestor’s long syllabled, vowel ending last names.  And, I was really happy to get a couple of old family recipes.

My maternal grandfather, the only non-Italian in the bunch of birth grandparents, and a fellow curious cook gave me my grandmother’s recipe for tomato sauce.  Always in search of the perfect sauce, I loved this one from the start.  It’s a thick sauce that can be used not only on any form of pasta from spaghetti to ravioli to gnocchi, but can also be used as a pizza sauce.

I made it for my birthmother once and she said, “That’s not my mother’s sauce.  I have no idea where my dad got that recipe.”  No matter where Gramps got this recipe, I like to think it’s from my grandmother Gentile, which I pronounce with the sound of lily on the end.

Mary Gentile’s Tomato Sauce


1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I prefer imported Italian tomatoes.)

1  – 6 ounce can tomato paste

1 cup water

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 tsp sugar

3 cloves garlic minced

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp salt


Combining the ingredients:

Reserve 1/2 cup of the water and put all of the remaining ingredients into a large pot on top of the stove.  Turn the burner to medium.


Stir to combine and cover the pot partially with a lid to keep the sauce from splattering all over your kitchen wall.  Cook the sauce for up to an hour and a half adding 1/4 cups of water as needed — about every 30 minutes.  This is meant to be a thick tomato sauce, so don’t add too much water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare your favorite pasta as directed, then top with the tomato sauce and some grated parmesian.  Mangia, Mangia!


Makes enough to top 6 generous servings of pasta

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About Lisa Orwig

I'm a homegrown cook sharing recipes and other great stuff about food from all over the world.
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