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Great Aunt Diddie’s Bolognese Sauce and my Italian-American Heritage

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Aunt Diddie's Bolognese Sauce Recipe-2

Today I am sharing my Great-Aunt Diddie’s recipe for bolognese sauce. She was the matriarch of the Italian side of the family, and an incredible cook. As the only girl in her family, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother, and all of the family recipes were handed down to her. Recently Aunt Diddie passed away, and I wanted to tell my readers about her not only because she was the matriarch of the family, but because her cooking has been a massive influence on my family and this website.

Diddie was my grandfather’s sister (his name was Mario, but everyone called him Lefty or Coach D). Their parents Luigi and Annita both immigrated from Italy, and they had eight children (five who survived to adulthood). Luigi was just fourteen years old when he and his brothers left Cepagetti, Italy and set sail for America. They landed in Canada and then traveled to Maine, found work, and settled. In Maine, Luigi befriended a man named James, who arranged for his sister Annita to come over from Italy to marry Luigi. Annita came to America through Ellis Island. (Can you imagine leaving home and traveling across the world to reunite with your brother and marry his friend?)

Aunt Diddie's Bolognese Sauce Recipe-3

Aunt Diddie was always in the kitchen and would welcome you to her home with “a little lunch” which was really quite a large meal. Diddie never needed to look at a recipe for even measure ingredients. Cooking was a skill she was born with, and getting her to share her recipes was nearly impossible until my sister and mother visited Diddie and took careful notes and measurements to preserve Diddie’s recipes for future generations.

Aunt Diddie's Bolognese Sauce Recipe-4

Diddie stood about 4 feet 8 inches tall (on a good day), and she was a character, in the best possible meaning of the word. She lived in the house she grew up in for almost her entire life, and never married, but lived her life surrounded by many siblings, nieces, and nephews, and their children. The thing about Aunt Diddie is that she cooked with love, and it brought her joy to cook for her family. And we can share that love with future generations through her recipes.

One thing that I always remember Aunt Diddie making was her bolognese sauce. She seemed to always have it at the ready when we visited. It’s also one of my favorite family recipes. I cut this recipe in half, which is still plenty to serve 6-8 people (the original proportions were clearly meant to feed the massive Italian side of the family). My mother always makes full batches and then invites friends over to pasta nights. It becomes a big event, and something my father’s friends look forward to.

Aunt Diddie's Bolognese Sauce Recipe-5

The beef mixture in this bolognese is the same mix that Aunt Diddie used to make her famous meatballs. You can double or triple the meat mix and make meatballs in addition to the bolognese if you want.

Great Aunt Diddie's Bolognese Sauce and my Italian-American Heritage

Yields 8

20 minPrep Time

3 hr, 30 Cook Time

3 hr, 50 Total Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 3/4 pound Ground Sirloin
  • 3 slices of stale Italian Bread, crusts removed (Diddie would use hamburger buns)
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1 large Egg
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cup chopped White Onion
  • 1 12 ounce can Tomato Paste
  • 1 15 ounce can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 29 ounce can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 large Green Pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Basil


  1. Place the ground sirloin in a bowl. Then thoroughly soak the stale bread in water, and squeeze out the excess water. Add this to the bowl with the beef. Next add the Parmesan, egg, and garlic, season with a 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir all these ingredients together.
  2. Next, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook until soft, this will take about 3-4 minutes. Then add the beef mixture, stirring it and breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and tomato sauce, stirring to break up all of the beef.
  3. Next slice the pepper in half, removing the seeds, membrane, and stem. Then just place half of the pepper in the sauce. Save the other half for something else. Yeah, this step seems a little odd, but just roll with it.
  4. Then season the sauce with salt and pepper. I started with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and added more to taste. Then add 1 tablespoon freshly chopping parsley and basil, adding more to taste if you like.
  5. Let the sauce simmer on low for 3 hours before serving. Serve with fresh pasta, and feel free to freeze any extra sauce. Another option is to brown up some boneless pork chops and add them to the sauce while it simmers. You can either eat the pork with pasta or use it to make pork sandwiches with the sauce and mozzarella cheese.


Wednesday 19th of April 2023

I can’t wait to make this recipe! I loved the story, Thank you for sharing. Is it 3 hamburger bun pieces (a top, bottom, and a top or a bottom of the bun to be precise) ?


Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

3 pieces!

Frugal Hausfrau

Wednesday 15th of June 2016

What a treasure you've preserved! Thanks for sharing with us on Throwback Thursday!


Merit Weidman Kirkpatrick

Tuesday 14th of June 2016

So awesome to have traditional family recipes ! Thanks for sharing it over at #HomeMattersParty

Quinn Caudill (Dad Whats 4 Din

Monday 13th of June 2016

Love a great homemade sauce. Thanks for sharing with us at Throwback Thursday. Pinned and shared! Can’t wait to see what you bring to the party this week.

Lisa @ Fun Money Mom

Thursday 9th of June 2016

I've never made my own sauce but have always wanted to try! Yours sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing it with us at Share The Wealth Sunday!

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