Berney’s Italian Tomato Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Marcia Friedman from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. Accompanying recipe photo credit: © Marcia Friedman.

To make a kosher (meatless) version of my Dad's robust sauce for lasagna and other cheesy pasta dishes, I found that a little chopped fresh fennel adds just the right subtle heartiness so that you don't miss the meat. That being said, this sauce does make a wonderful base for meatballs (just remember that for kosher purposes, your meatball sauce cannot be used with cheese/dairy dishes).


Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
1½ cups sliced fresh button or baby portobello mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press or minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cans (14½ ounces each) whole tomatoes with their juices
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes with juices (preferably fire-roasted and no salt added, such as Muir Glen brand)
3 cans (15 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
1 tablespoon dried basil, or to taste
Kosher salt


Heat a layer of oil in a heavy large pot (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers, and fennel and sauté until just beginning to soften and brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and sauté until tender, 2 to 4 more minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 more minute.

Stir in the whole tomatoes and use kitchen shears or the back of a spoon to break them apart slightly. Add the diced tomatoes, sauce, and tomato paste. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the black pepper, oregano, and basil.

Cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. When nearly done, taste for salt and add if needed.

Yield: 10 to 11 cups of sauce (Pareve)


Recipe: kosher, meat, sauce

You may buy the cookbook here: Meatballs and Matzoh Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life