On my first day of culinary school, my chef instructor asked my cohort, “Why are you here, and what does this experience mean to you?” I thought this was an important foundational question and began crafting my response mentally. However, before I could generate any cohesive answer, my chef added, “Because this is NOT The Bear!” As we all discussed later, the reasons that brought us to culinary school were not influenced by a TV show, but we all had various The Bear fantasies. Even when we yelled “corner” or “behind” in our kitchen, we did so with a smirk in the beginning weeks of our program. As lovers of the culinary world, the show The Bear struck a chord in all of us. Honestly, though, who hasn’t wanted to emulate some of those incredible food scenes perfectly depicted in the show? The chocolate cake? The potato chip omelet? Cola braised short ribs? Let’s not forget the famous Chicago beef sandwich! However, one featured recipe stands on its own at the end of the last episode of season one: the spaghetti sauce!

There is a lot to say about this dish. On a deeper level, this sauce serves as a metaphor for family, persistence, and undaunted faith. On a culinary level, it is an example of how simple ingredients can be transformed into something complex and elegant. There are only four in the original recipe: garlic, basil, olive oil, and San Marzano tomatoes. However, like Carmy, I added a few, like onion and butter, to build layers of flavor. Your result will be a rich sauce that is bold in taste but not heavy in texture.

This sauce is influenced by the famous tomato sauce at Scarpetta Restaurant in NYC. It includes the featured butter and parmesan, which their sauce is known for, and utilizes the technique of steeping the basil and garlic in olive oil. It also pulls from Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce by adopting the process of cooking a halved onion in the sauce. I added my own spin by adding parmesan rinds while it was simmering to increase the umami flavor, as well as additional onion to increase the layers of flavor and decrease the acidity. My technique for this is to cut an onion into quarters, peel it, remove the fibrous end, add it to ¼ cup of water in a blender, and blitz it until the onion is the consistency of a loose pureè. This avoids chunks of onion in your sauce and adds a uniform allium flavor. The sauce will have a raw onion flavor at first, which is why simmering it for 45 minutes to one hour is essential. Over time, the raw onion flavor cooks out and balances out the sauce. Don’t rush this process; you will be rewarded in the end, just as Carmy was when we saw him make the sauce in the season one finale. Albeit, he was rewarded for very different reasons! (No spoilers here!)

Carmy's Spaghetti Sauce From 'The Bear'

  • Prep Time:30 mins
  • Cook Time:1 hr 30 mins
  • Total Time:2 hrs
  • Servings:5
  • Easy


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium yellow onions - divided
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 large bunch basil - divided
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter - divided
  • 2 28-ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1-2 parmesan rinds - optional
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese - grated and divided
Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 1

    Cut one yellow onion into quarters, peel it, and place it in a blender. Add ¼ cup water and pulse until the onion is the consistency of a loose pureè. Set aside.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 2

    In a small pot, combine the olive oil, a large handful of basil (stems included), the garlic cloves, and ½ tsp red pepper flakes. On medium-high heat, allow the ingredients to come to a low simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook the ingredients until the basil is wilted and fragrant. Remove the basil from the pot and set it aside. Continue to cook the garlic on low until it becomes slightly brown and is soft throughout. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the garlic to steep in the oil as you prepare the other ingredients.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 3

    Heat 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cut the second onion in half as the butter melts, peel it, and place it cut-side down in the pot with the butter. Cook the onion in the butter until the cut side becomes slightly browned. Be careful not to burn the butter, as the milk solids will develop a bitter taste.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 4

    As the onion is cooking, open the cans of tomatoes and carefully place them into a large bowl. Using a clean hand, slowly crush the whole tomatoes into the juice from the can. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot along with the onion pureè.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 5

    Blend the garlic cloves, the cooked basil, and ½ cup of the steeped oil in a blender. Reserve the remaining garlic oil for another use. Blend the ingredients until combined, and no large chunks remain. Add the garlic mixture to the tomatoes and onion mixture.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 6

    Stir the ingredients in the pot, bring them to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add an additional small handful of fresh basil (including stems) and the parmesan rinds, if using. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste, and turn off the heat. Add up to ½ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and reserve more for serving with the pasta.

    Stefanie Trepper
  • Step 7

    When serving this sauce with pasta, preferably spaghetti, salt the water so it is significantly salty. Remember to reserve about a cup of the pasta water before removing the cooked pasta. Use it to help incorporate the sauce together with the cooked pasta. A little goes a long way, so add about ¼ cup at a time.

    Stefanie Trepper