Pasta al Sugo Rosso

Name: Giulia Bernardini
Class Year: 1991
Country of Residence: Currently USA, grew up in W Europe, esp Rome, Italy

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

This is a common, everyday dish in Rome. But what makes it special – festive – is that at parties, because it’s so quick to make, it often gets served at 1 or 2 am when everyone has been dancing and having fun and needs a little pick-me-up to keep going!

Pasta al Sugo Rosso

Serves 4. Takes approx. 15-20 mins


2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can San Marzano tomatoes – or similar amount of any very sweet tomato (1 lb 12 oz or 800 gr)
Red chili flakes (optional)
1 package spaghetti or whichever preferred pasta shape and size (recommended brand: De Cecco OR, for gluten-free: Jovial or Pasta d’oro)

Supplies needed: medium pot with lid for sauce, large pot with lid for boiling pasta, spoon or spatula to stir.


Put a large, covered pot of water to boil. Once water boils, add a generous handful of salt (about 1 tablespoon), allow to dissolve, and add pasta. 

Meanwhile, pour oil into a sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic to warm oil and saute briefly (don’t let it get brown). Add tomatoes. When sauce starts to bubble, turn heat down, and place lid on pot, propping it open with a cooking utensil. Allow to bubble/simmer for 15-20 min. Remove lid, crush tomatoes if you prefer them that way (if using fresh tomatoes, fish out the skins), and add salt to taste. 

When pasta is cooked to your liking, use a coffee mug to ladle a mug’s worth of hot pasta water out of the pot and set aside. Then, drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer to serving bowl. Add sauce to your liking and, as you stir to coat the pasta with the sauce, add a tablespoon or more of the pasta water that you set aside – more if needed. Pasta should make a splitchy sound as you stir. If not, it’s too dry – and we don’t want that. Serve with a little bit of freshly chopped basil or chili flakes or with some parmesan if liked. Buon appetito! 😉

Photo Credit: Lablascovegmen on Flickr

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