The Sunday Sauce (8 recipes!)

The Sunday Sauce is a rich, thick, slow-cooked tomato sauce also known as “ragu” and Italians love to make it on Sunday for family dinner. Here are 8 delicious recipes for the Sunday Sauce, and each one lends itself to being rich, savory, and full of flavor. Serve with your favorite pasta and some crusty bread for dipping and you’ll have a fabulous dinner.

What is The Sunday Sauce?

Sunday Sauce is an Italian tradition. It is usually a tomato-based sauce simmered with meat such as pork, sausages, and even beef. It can also be a non-tomato-based sauce like pasta with Genovese sauce, and our wild mushroom ragu.

This kind of tomato sauce is always made on Sunday, typically because it is simmered for at least an hour or longer, and it is served with your favorite pasta. But not all Sunday sauces take hours to develop flavor. The Sunday sauce was a traditional meal and an inexpensive way for Italian families to feed a large gathering.

There are other popular tomato sauces, some made with ground pork, veal, or beef, like our Mom’s Classic Bolognese Sauce. Some of them will contain seared meats that are slowly cooked to give the ragu rich flavors, like our Best Pork Ragu Recipe and our Braciole -Sicilian Style, just to name a few.

This method of cooking the sauce and allowing the meats to slowly cook in the sauce gives it a rich, and flavorful taste. (it’s the best!)

Reasons why Italians made it on Sundays

  • Traditionally, Sunday was the one day of the week, when extended families could get together and enjoy a meal.
  • It was also for family members who traveled afar to spend one day with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
  • Plus, Sunday was a day to relax and enjoy time together as a family while sharing a meal.
  • Sunday, traditionally was also the day they preferred to make dinner “earlier” than usual, simply because they did not want anyone to get home late at night, knowing they had to go to work or school the next morning.

8 Recipes for Sunday Sauces Your Family Will Love:

Here are 8 delicious recipes for Sunday Sauces we love to make again and again. All of them are our family’s authentic recipes for the Sunday Sauce (tried and true).

So take your pick! And in time, try each one and tell us your favorite!

1. Mom’s Classic Bolognese Sauce ~ is a rich tomato sauce traditionally made with lean ground beef, along with vegetables, wine, and imported Italian tomatoes. It is so versatile, you can use it to make an easy meat lasagna, or just serve it over your favorite pasta, gnocchi, and cheese ravioli.

A wooden spoonful of bolognese sauce.

2. Rigatoni all’ Amatriciana ~ is a simple tomato sauce, served over rigatoni pasta. Its origin is from Rome, Italy and it is flavored with smoky Italian bacon known as pancetta, along with a few additional ingredients.

A forkful of rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce on top.

3. Vegetable Bolognese with Pappardelle ~ is a “meatless” tomato sauce that offers the same thickness, and meat-like texture, only it is loaded with chopped vegetables, and it is delicious! A perfect sauce for vegetarians!

A blue plate filled with pappardelle pasta with tomato sauce on top.

4. Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce ~ is a “meatless” tomato sauce that is slowly cooked in the oven, not on the stovetop. It is made with only 5 ingredients and with fresh ripe tomatoes, not canned tomatoes. And it is divine!

A forkful of Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes Sauce.

5. Braciole -Sicilian Style ~ is a tomato sauce that is slowly simmered with rollatini meats called Braciole. Thin slices of meat are stuffed with a few ingredients, rolled up, tied, and simmered in a slow-cooked tomato sauce until the meat is perfectly tender.  The sauce is So flavorful – it’s AMAZING!

A platter filled with rolled meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto smothered with tomato sauce.

6. Best Pork Ragu Recipe ~ is a rich, thick pork sauce made with imported tomatoes, lots of onions, and no garlic, and it is slowly simmered with Italian sweet sausage links and sliced pork tenderloin.  This is an Exquisite Meal!

A forkful of sausage smothered in tomato sauce over a blue dinner plate.

7. Pasta with Genovese Sauce ~ is a rich and savory onion and beef ragu served with pasta.  This ragu is slowly cooked with onions and meat until the onions melt and caramelize, bringing out its natural sweetness. It is mouthwatering!

A bowl of penne pasta with onions and meat sauce on top.

8. Sausage Ragu ~ is a thick, meaty ragu made with crumbled Italian sausages, San Marzano tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. Served with pappardelle semolina pasta, this dish is fabulous!

Sausage Ragu served over pappardelle pasta.

Questions & Answers…

1. What kind of meats to cook in the sauce? You can cook and sear several types of meat and add them to your tomato sauce while it’s simmering. These will create the best-tasting flavors while thickening the sauce. Here are the most popular options:

  • pork sausages
  • pork tenderloin
  • strips of sirloin steak or filet mignon
  • short ribs
  • and of course, our Mom’s Sunday Meatballs.

2. What is the difference between Marinara Sauce and Sunday Sauce? There is no meat in our mom’s quick marinara sauce. Plus, marinara sauce is not simmered as long as the other Sunday sauces or ragu. It will not have the rich, thick consistency of the Sunday sauces.

3. How long can we store leftover sauce? Typically, it is 3 days. Always allow the tomato sauce to cool down completely before storing it in a sealed container and placing it in your refrigerator.

4. How to reheat the sauce? To reheat the sauce, you can transfer the amount you need to a small pot, and heat on low heat until it is thoroughly reheated.

5. Can we freeze the Sunday Sauce? Yes, you can! Wait until the sauce is completely cool before transferring it to a sealed container and freezing. It will freeze well for up to 2 months.

More Recipes for Ragu and Sauces You’ll Love:

4 kinds of recipes for the Italian ragu.

The Sunday Sauce is truly worth the time to make.

Serve any one of our Sunday sauces with your favorite pasta and a fine bottle of wine, and you’ll have an exquisite dinner.

Today, we have included on the recipe card, our “basic ragu” recipe that can be simmered with seared meats and meatballs! Go ahead and try one or try them all.


Yield: 3 quarts

The Sunday Sauce

The Sunday Sauce (6 recipes) by

The Sunday Sauce is a rich, thick, slow-cooked tomato sauce also known as "ragu" and Italians love to make it on Sunday for family dinner. This sauce can be used to slowly simmer with meats and meatballs.  


  • 1 + 1/2 of large Vidalia onion - finely minced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 large basil leaves
  • 4 to 5 cans (28-ounces) Italian peeled tomatoes, blended in a blender
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt


  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes, and basil, and simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Then add only one can of tomatoes (blended) to the onions to prevent the onions from burning while cooking. (This is a trick my husband learned from his mom). Occasionally stirring. Continue to simmer the onions on low heat for another 15 minutes.
  3. Then add in the rest of the tomatoes and salt. Cover and raise the heat to bring to the sauce a boil. Lower the heat again, and continue to simmer the sauce on low heat.
  4. Add the seared meats to the sauce. Simmer for an additional hour, occasionally stirring the sauce. The total cooking time should be about 1 and 1/2 hours. Taste the sauce. Season with additional salt to taste. Turn off the heat. Allow the sauce to cool down slightly.
  5. Yields: 3 quarts


To Store: Allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring it to a sealed container and chill it in your refrigerator. It stays fresh for up to 4 days.

To Freeze: the sauce must be cooled before freezing. You can freeze Sunday sauce (including the meats submerged), and for up to two months.

Nutrition Information:


12 servings

Serving Size:

1 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 116Total Fat: 12.6gCarbohydrates: 1.8gFiber: .4gSugar: .8gProtein: .2g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Your comments help! If you try any one of our Sunday Sauces, let us know and leave a comment below! We’d love to hear from you. Have fun and snap a photo!  Hashtag it on Instagram or on Pinterest, and be sure to tag us @2sistersrecipes.  We’d love to see what you make and share it with the world!  🙂

Happy Cooking! 🙂

xo anna and liz

anna and liz selfie

Welcome! From Anna and Liz

We believe the kitchen is the center and the heart of the home. It is where we cook, eat, and unwind with family and friends, creating memorable traditions! Read more…

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  1. Great recipes 👌 We loved your bolognese sauce and look forward to making the others too. Thanks again.

    1. Oh we hope you do! They are all traditional sauces, but amazingly easy to make! ENJOY!!