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Elvira's tomato sauce

This recipe has been revised since it was posted on my old site. The original version (mine, not Elvira's) called for cans of tomatoes packed in puree and cans of puree. Thanks to a tip from Lidia Bastianich of cookbook and television fame, the recipe now calls for imported italian tomatoes packed in juice and no puree. Makes a much better sauce. Lidia recommends San Marzano tomatoes which are excellent but fairly expensive in my neighborhood. I usually use Luigi Vitelli.

When Elvira cooked pasta for just my father and me, she sauced it with everything imaginable. We ate pasta with garlic, olive oil and a little water from the spaghetti pot. We ate it with broccoli, beans, cauliflower, greens of every description with fish my father caught and with rabbit he shot. But when she served pasta to company in Knoxville, it was almost always spaghetti (or mostaccioli) with her special tomato sauce, meatballs, braciola and sausage. Her guests began to expect it and before long demanded it.
Elvira's tomato sauce itself was simple, just tomatoes, tomato juice and tomato paste and a little garlic and parsley. It was the meats that cooked with it that gave the sauce it's fabulous flavor. Elvira firmly believed that all three meats (meatballs, braciola and sausage) were necessary for the sauce to be right. Her tomato sauce was a smooth sauce (no pieces) that she sometimes called tomato gravy. She ran it all through a food mill before adding the meats.


1 medium clove of garlic, finely chopped
3-4 tbs. olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
3 28-oz cans of imported whole tomatoes packed in juice

(You probably want to double the recipe if you're using a lot of meat. But don't worry. It all freezes well.)

Sauté the garlic and olive oil in a large pot until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir into the oil and garlic over low heat for a minute or two and then add the parsley. Cook for another minute and then add tomatoes and juice. Simmer for one hour. Put the sauce through a food mill. At this point you may want to add a little water if the sauce seems too thick. Add the meats and simmer for another hour.

Serve over spaghetti, mostaccioli or your favorite substantial pasta with the meats on the side.

Elvira sometimes browned a little salt pork or a fatty piece of pork shoulder along with the garlic, removing the meat before adding the tomato paste and adding it back to the sauce with the other meats. She also sometimes added a little oregano and/or basil, but most of the time she didn't. She canned her own tomatoes and would use those instead of the store-bought variety when she could.

The sauce freezes well and Elvira always had gallons of it on hand.


Elvira Moffo Kendig:

About Elvira

Elvira's tomato sauce

Elvira's meatballs

Elvira's braciola

Elvira's sausage

Mrs. Maglio's Whoopee Chicken

Elvira's favorite stuffing