Art's Special Sauce

Art’s Special Sauce (as I call it) is not on the Diner menu very much, but I love making this sauce. It is an all day process, with the sauce cooking on the stove, having a sour dough baguette sliced up and sitting on the counter beside the pot just waiting to dunk in and test the progress. Art’s Special Sauce is warm, delicious and every bit of this process reminds me of Art.

Here’s the back story:
I had sampled Art’s red sauce for a few years, and one day I asked him to take the time to write the recipe down so I could try to replicate it myself. I always saw Art make this in his catering kitchen in the garage, with lots of space and plenty of room for steam. He would use the biggest stock pot I have ever seen in a home kitchen and a wooden paddle that looked like a mini-oar to stir.

Art was passionate about the ingredients that went into the sauce, “The best you can afford,” he would say. I remember he always had Contadina cans of tomato sauce, puree and crushed tomatoes. I asked him about tomato paste and he said he never used tomato paste – too bitter.

I usually make Art’s Special Sauce, as I call it, during the holidays to prepare sauce for homemade lasagna, then freezing some for spaghetti later on in the winter. I happen to be cooking it today, and therefore writing about it, because there’s going to be a party at the Diner - I thought lasagna would be a good choice. So I’m spending the day browning the beef and Italian sausage, grating the carrots and zucchini (I use this instead of the mushrooms, since we DO NOT serve mushrooms at Holly’s Diner!), opening cans, sautéing onions and garlic, and dunking slices of a fresh baguette into the biggest stock pot I have measuring the progress all day. Most of all I honor and remember Art – his enthusiastic Irish soul exuding the Italian spirit that rubbed off while being married to Donna for so many years. I miss Art, but he lives on at Holly’s Diner through his sauce.

Some history on my “making of the sauce”:
I made lasagna with Art’s Special Sauce for HH’s and my wedding a few years ago. The one of the stock pots I had at the time did not have a thick enough bottom and some of the ingredients burned during the day-long cooking. The timing was such that I didn’t have enough time to start again once I discovered the miss-cue. I combined the slightly burned sauce with the sauce in the other pot that did not burn and moved forward, hoping no one would notice. SS was kind enough to ask if I had used a smoked cheese (and I just hope everyone else thought that too!), but Art noticed. He did not say anything to me, Donna told me a while later that he had noticed. But he was kind enough to just smile and enjoy –or at least pretend to. I got a very large thick bottomed stock pot shortly after that, so I haven’t had that challenge again.

I love reading the recipe that Art wrote down for me over ten years ago, misspellings and all.

The next time you stop by the Diner, definitely about the lasagna or if there’s any pasta with Art’s Special Sauce, I would love to share his memories with you.

Art’s Special Sauce (as Art wrote it July 18, 1998)
3 - #2 cans tomato sauce
3 - #2 cans tomato puree
3 - #2 cans crushed tomatoes
3 onions, processed (chopped finely)
1 cup processed garlic (I don’t ever use this much, but still a healthy portion)
2 lbs good ground beef
1 lb ground pork (try ground Italian sausage)
10 mushrooms processed (I use a grated zucchini instead)
½ cup Italian parsley, minced
3 green onions, minced
1 carrot grated (for sugar)
1 tbsp oregano, dry or fresh
1 cup red wine
1 – 2 Basil leaves, fresh or dry
(Olive oil, salt, pepper)

1. Fry beef and pork and drain, set aside.
2. Mince onions and garlic.
3. In pot, cover bottom with coast of olive oil, sauté onions and garlic ‘til limp.
4. Add meat to onions and garlic, and add all liquids; stir and add all other ingredients; salt and pepper to taste; add up to one #2 can of hot water
5. Stir often; cook on low heat just a bubble for five or six hours.

Note 1– the #2 cans are the 28 ounce cans
Note 2 – Art showed me that the way to get everything out of the #2 cans the tomatoes came in was to put the cup of wine in one and slosh around, pour the liquid in the next can, etc. When you get done with the last can you will have a very thick wine, but have gathered the majority of the tomatoes left in the cans.


  1. I was there on that wonderful day and I do remember, it was yummy :) Since my hubby loves lasagna he took notice of yours and loved it too!
    I will have to try your recipe since I haven't found one that lives up to a great lasagna yet!

  2. Holly...my brother left many memories for many people. I'm so glad that you hold him and his "Sauce" recipe so close in your heart. We all miss him terribly........Thanks, Pat (Art's little sister)

  3. Thanks for remembering my Uncle like this... It's exactly how I think of him. Misspellings and all. He was a true Italian.... er, Irishman (In that he gave with his whole self and every gathering of a few constituted a party). There is no one on earth like him. No doubt, the Saints in Heaven are eating well.