Mike Isabella’s Pepperoni Sauce Recipe

Graffiato Pepperoni SauceCityEats partner Mike Isabella was kind enough to share the recipe for his famed pepperoni sauce (you know, the one Gail Simmons went crazy over when he made it on Top Chef). We tried it at Graffiato, and let’s just say that Gail knows of what she speaks — it really is that good. If you can’t get to the restaurant, this is one you should make at home. 




Makes approximately 1 1⁄2 cups

Prep time: 30-35 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 cup small diced yellow onion

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

6 ounces pepperoni, thinly sliced

1⁄2 tsp fennel seeds

1⁄2 tbs chili flake

1⁄2 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1⁄2 tsp red wine vinegar

*Note: The pepperoni sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days.


1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sweat for about 4-5 minutes until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. If the garlic begins to brown, lower the heat slightly.

2. Add the pepperoni, cook for 4 minutes.

3. Meanwhile add fennel seeds to a dry sauté pan and toast over medium heat. Shake the seeds in the pan until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

4. Then add the fennel seeds and red chili flake, cook for 1 minute longer.

5. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a slight boil. Reduce the heat to low, simmer for 50 minutes.

6. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Puree the mixture in a blender for approximately 2 minutes or until smooth.

7. Pass the sauce through a fine strainer to create a smooth texture, using a rubber spatula will help. Finish by stirring in the red wine vinegar. 8. Reheat the sauce when you are ready to use.