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Neapolitan Sugo di Pomodoro

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The simplest of tomato sauces that allow the flavors of the ingredients to shine through – and comes together within 30 minutes. Keeper!



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • A few leaves of basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and a few basil leaves to finish
  • 1 pound pasta (preferably made from Gragnano wheat)


Pick a saucepan large enough to hold all the pasta and sauce. I use my large cast iron skillet. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves to the pan. Warm over medium low heat. Allow the garlic to slowly simmer in the oil until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.  Remove the garlic from the pan.

Raise the heat to medium. Add the can of tomatoes with their juice to the pan. Some cooks prefer to drain the tomatoes which results in a thicker sauce. Either way is fine.  Add a few large pinches of salt to the sauce, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a few leaves of basil.  Gently push on the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes in the sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken slightly. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.

Meanwhile, put up a large pot of salted (like the sea!) water to cook the pasta. Be at the ready to transfer the pasta into the sauce pan as you will only cook the pasta for a few minutes in the water. When it comes to a boil, drop in the pasta. Note how long the package says to cook the pasta until al dente and only cook it for half that time in the water. Transfer the pasta to the sauce pan to finish cooking. (For example, if the package says 8 minutes for al dente, transfer it to the sauce at around 4 minutes.) Finish cooking the pasta to al dente in the sauce.  The pasta will continue to cook in the sauce releasing a bit of starch and helping to thicken the sauce. Feel free to add a little bit of the pasta cooking water to the pan if the sauce is too dry.

When done, transfer the pasta and sauce to a heated serving bowl. Sprinkle with a few fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve! (Some Neapolitans would balk at serving grated cheese with this dish as it muddles the pure flavors of the dish. I say try it first without add only if you feel you need to!) Enjoy!