• Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • Serves 4-6
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, puréed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 45 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar – optional. (See notes below)
  • 1 pound penne – or any pasta
  • Grated Parmigiano for serving

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  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until it’s golden. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add the basil, and a little sugar as desired. Lower the heat and simmer until reduced, 20 – 30 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 2 minutes less than package directions). Drain, add to the sauce, and mix together over medium heat.
  4. Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano.


The above measures are a guide, but add or subtract to taste. Nanni used a food mill to purée canned tomatoes and remove the seeds – which are said to have a slightly bitter taste. I rarely use one and instead rely on a speedy blender. Sugar is a controversial addition. My grandmother preferred a slightly sweet sauce and so added it, citing the fact that canned tomatoes are more bitter than fresh ones. I rarely add it. She would not add it to sauces with meat, such as a ragú.