The Story of Nonna Pat’s Classic Tomato Sauce

In life, the simplest things are often the best: fresh fruit plucked straight from the vine, a warm scone topped with butter and homemade jam, or a plate of pasta dressed with our Nonna Pat’s classic tomato sauce.

The inspiration behind our first weekly box, Nonna Pat is the only daughter of Sicilian-Italian immigrants and was born and raised in New York. For years, she ran a bed & breakfast in Maine and welcomed guests for Sunday supper—a tradition she still carries on today at age 73.

Her classic, simple tomato sauce is often at the heart of these meals—and would make a great foundation for your next family get-together. Crafted with 5 pounds of tomatoes in each jar (and lots of love), the key to this recipe is its simplicity: tomatoes, a handful of hand-torn basil leaves, a swirl of first-press Italian olive oil, then sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. That’s it. No sugar added.

The quality of the ingredients is what makes this recipe sing: Look for a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and fresh, organic herbs. Each summer, we spend days in the kitchen crafting a big batch of sauce for the winter. During this season, the sauce can be crafted with juicy, ripe Roma tomatoes straight from the garden; in winter, we look for canned tomatoes from the San Marzano region of Italy. Recommended by chefs worldwide, these plum tomatoes are grown in rich, volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity. They are readily available in our region—find them at local supermarkets such as Metropolitan Market, PCC and Whole Foods, as well as specialty food stores like DeLaurenti in Pike Place Market or Savour in Ballard.

Our Nonna Pat serves this sauce over fresh pasta alongside braised rapini greens sautéed with garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper; or adds Italian sausage and bresaola to make Italian-style “gravy”. It is also an excellent addition to stuffed shells or manicotti. But, as we said, the simple route will do the trick: Try picking up a pound of fresh pasta from Pasta & Co., then add sauce and shavings of fresh pecorino for a truly satisfying supper.

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