Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce (Sugo)

4.75 from 4 votes

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I can’t think of anything better than sugo and sugo Sundays! Sugo, also known as authentic Italian tomato sauce is a staple in every Italian household. If a big pot of sugo isn’t on the table every Sunday in my family, it’s just not the same. Sometimes we make the sauce plain and use it for soups, stews, lasagna, rollatini or any dish that requires tomato sauce. Other times we make it with Osso Buco (veal shanks), meatballs, ribs, breaded cutlets, or any other type of meat. The sauce simmers slowly for a few hours until the meat is tender and melts in your mouth like butter. In this recipe I show you how we make our traditional Italian Sugo with Osso Buco which I know you’ll fall in love with. If you’re vegetarian, feel free to leave out the meat and make it plain as we often do as well which is the perfect for your favorite pasta, pizza, gnocchi, and more. This traditional Italian tomato sauce has passed down from Steve’s family (from Calabria). I hope his Nonna Vittoria and Nonno Giovanni are watching down on us and we’re making them proud as we continue to carry on family traditions that have been around for generations in their family and many Italian families around the world. If you make Italian tomato sauce at home, let us know where you’re from and how you make it as well. Love you!

Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce (Sugo)

If you're Italian, you know that you can't have a Sunday without Sugo! This Italian tomato sauce tastes like liquid gold so I hope it becomes part of your weekend ritual as well.
4.75 from 4 votes
Servings: 6
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or any you like
  • 3 veal shanks or any cut of veal you like , Osso Buco
  • 1 small finely chopped yellow onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 litre jar of tomato sauce (approx. 4 cups)
  • 5 cups of water
  • salt to taste , taste and adjust
  • 3 whole jalapenos, optional
  • 1 parmigiano reggiano cheese rind, optional


Please use good quality Passata or plain tomato sauce. We use our homemade tomato sauce which is only made with tomatoes, salt, and basil. I will leave a link here for the recipe but feel free to use any tomatoes you like. You can even use canned tomatoes such as Mutti. Italian Tomato Sauce  – The Modern Nonna

  • In a big pot on the stove add the olive oil or any oil of choice. Let it heat up on medium-high heat. Add in the meat and sear it for a few minutes on each side or until golden. If you're not using meat, skip this step and proceed to the next.
  • If the meat feels stuck to the bottom of the pot that means it's NOT ready to be flipped over so be patient and listen to what it's trying to tell you :). Once the meat has browned on both sides, remove it from the pot and set aside. We like to discard a little bit of the extra oil from the pot but you don't have to.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onions and garlic. Sauté for a minute until translucent. Stir in the tomato paste and cook off that raw taste for about a minute. Add in the tomato sauce and water.
  • How much water you add will be up to you as it will depend on how thick you like your sauce. We like to add a big jar of sauce and a jar and a quarter of water.
  • Add salt to taste. Don't add too much as it's easier to taste and adjust later. Let the sauce come to a boil and add in the veal shanks back in.
  • Optionally, we like to add a few whole jalapenos (and no they won't make the sauce spicy) and one Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind. If you don't have a rind, simply skip this step.
  • Reduce the heat to LOW and cover it with a lid leaving a small opening for the steam to escape. Let the sauce cook and thicken for 2 hours.
  • You can remove the rind after an hour if you don't want it to melt into the sauce. The rind is added for extra flavor but not needed.
  • After two hours the sauce should be thick and the meat falling off the bone. The meat should be fork tender. Enjoy on top of pasta, with a fresh baguette or use for any other recipe if you make it plain!



You can make sugo with ribs, any cut of veal, meatballs, breaded cutlets, or even plain. I used Osso Buco which are veal shanks from my local grocery store but any cut of veal with a bone will work. 
If you want this sauce plain, simply skip the meat and proceed to sautéing the onions instead. The rest of the steps are all the same. We like to use plain tomato sauce with pasta OR in many of our recipes like chili, soups, stews, lasagna, pizza, and so much more! 
Please use good quality Passata or plain tomato sauce. We use our homemade tomato sauce which is only made with tomatoes, salt, and basil. I will leave a link here for the recipe but feel free to use any tomatoes you like. You can even use canned tomatoes such as Mutti. Italian Tomato Sauce  – The Modern Nonna
The jalapenos are optional and won’t break if you don’t move them around or vigorously boil the sauce. They are HOT once you cut them open in your plate but not while boiling in the sauce. 
If you want to make sauce with meatballs, form the meatballs, fry or bake them. Take them out of the pot if frying, proceed with the following steps and add them back in the same way! 
The Parmigiano Reggiano rind is optional but adds a ton of flavor. We like to freeze all of our rinds and use them to flavor soups, stews, sauces etc. 
If you use Passata and it doesn’t have anything else in it you can add some fresh basil to the sauce as well. If the tomatoes you use are ACIDIC, we like to add a small peeled carrot to the sauce which can be blended in after to offset the acidity. I don’t like to add sugar to sauce but you can if you wish. 
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

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  1. Do you do anything to tenderize the meat? I made the recipe once cooked the meat for around 7-8h and even though it fell off the bone it was still a bit chewy.. I used Osso bucco from a local (halal) butcher so it was really fresh ‍♀️

    1. Hi Nina, no I don’t. I wonder if it was the meat you had purchased as I have never had mine be chewy before. 2-2.5 hours is the sweet spot for me