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Big Daddy's Classic Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage

My oldest original recipe. When I was a young sailor stationed in San Diego, California, I shared a house with two other friends. Not too long after occupying our new digs we invited our girlfriends over for dinner, and I was assigned the role of chef. After a quick phone call home to mom, and a little creativity, the following sauce was born. It has been modified and tinkered with over the years but I haven’t changed it in so long that I can't remember.  The key here is to ensure that the sausage and ground beef are well browned over very hot heat. This builds up wonderful flavors that carry through the entire sauce.

1-28 ounce can Hunt's tomato puree (see notes)
2-28 ounce cans Crushed tomatoes
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
8-10 Italian sausages
2 medium onions chopped
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups water
6 cloves garlic minced
½ cup Marsala wine ( see notes)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon celery salt

Slice sausages into 1"-2" chunks and brown completely over medium high heat; set aside.

Brown ground chuck and ground pork.  Drain and set aside

In large pot heat small amount of olive oil, add onions, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until onions are transparent.

Add ¼ cup ot the Marsala and cook it down until it's mostly evaporated.  Add the tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, water, and all spices. Allow to simmer very slowly for one hour. Add mushrooms, meat and remaining Marsala. Continue simmering for an additional hour or so. Taste and adjust spices during this period.

If you have the time, allow to cool over night and reheat before serving.


  1. For more flavor use ground chuck and don't drain off the drippings. Sinful but good.
  2. You don't necessarily need to use Hunts tomatoes for this sauce to be good.  I mention Hunt's to make the point that not all canned tomatoes are the same and I've always been happy with this one.  Some brands I've tried are down right nasty.
  3. Masrsala is preferred because of it's unique flavor profile. But if it isn't available just use another hearty red wine. 

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