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Scarpetta’s Tomato Sauce

October 7, 2010

My friend Jennifer posted on her blog this week about Spaghetti a la Scarpetta. After reading her blog post (which you definitely should) I couldn’t stop thinking about this spaghetti sauce. I waited a whole two days to make this as Kris had just made spaghetti and meatballs over the weekend and figured we needed to take a spaghetti break. I hope she doesn’t mind me copying her blog post!

I have always wanted to make a simple yet delicious marinara style sauce, and this was a winner. It is extremely easy to make, doesn’t have to simmer for hours, and ends up tasting fresh with subtle flavors. I was nervous it would be too chunky for Kris but he liked it too and really enjoyed the slight spice the red pepper flakes added. I also think adding the pasta water to the dish really enhanced the texture – I always see the Food Network hosts reserving the water but never tried it myself until now.

The only thing I really did different was use all canned tomatoes. It called for San Marzano tomatoes and I always see Italian recipes specifically call for these so I figured I would find the real deal. I thought our grocery stores didn’t carry them, but I was just looking in the wrong place. I opted for the whole peeled tomatoes “Italian style” as they were cheaper than the plain ones. The Italian style I found just had one basil leaf in the sauce so don’t think it changed the flavor much.

Here is a link to a demo the chef did on how to make his signature sauce – it is obviously better than my pictures! Apparently he charges $24 for this dish at his restaurant!! Aren’t you glad Jen posted this on her blog so I could in turn share it with you?

Scarpetta’s Tomato Sauce


  • Spaghetti noodles
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus a couple tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (I think my can was 35 oz and had close to 8 tomatoes in there) – the recipe called for 8 fresh plum tomatoes and 1/4 can San Marzano if you have fresh to use
  • 2 stems of basil, leaves on plus save a few leaves for garnish
  • Pinch of red chili flakes (I used crushed red pepper – not sure if it is the same)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, unsalted
  • Parmesan cheese


  • In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 c olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves (I only had about 6 or so but use more if you have them) and pinch of red pepper flakes. Heat over a low heat to allow flavors to infuse the oil. Once the garlic has lightly browned, remove from heat. Allow to cool then strain. Set aside for adding to tomato sauce later.
  • Cut tomatoes in half and and remove seeds but save seeds and juices (not really necessary to save if you have the canned as you have the canned juices, but keep if using fresh tomatoes).
  • In saucepan, heat 1 to 2 T olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, carefully add in tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt and red chili/pepper flakes.
  • Allow tomatoes to cook for a few minutes until softened and then mash with a potato masher. If they are pretty thick, add in some of the reserved tomato juices (I wasn’t sure how much to add but I maybe overall added about a cup of tomato juices back in). Allow to cook for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring and mashing occasionally.
  • Once the tomatoes are cooked, add in the basil-garlic olive oil. The recipe said to add in all of it but I just added a little bit and saved the rest – add as much or as little as you like.
  • Cook your spaghetti in salted water and allow it to cook until just shy of being done.
  • While the pasta is cooking, add some of the tomato sauce to a saute/fry pan and heat slowly, allowing sauce to reduce a little. Add the cooked pasta to the pan along with a ladle of pasta water. Cook pasta in the sauce over medium-high heat.
  • Remove from heat and add basil, parmesan, olive oil and butter. The chef says the butter is one of the secrets to the flavor. In order to keep this light I added the smallest amount I could and didn’t add any extra olive oil. I bet it would be extra yummy with a big pat of butter though. Toss until incorporated and serve!

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 10:36 am

    That looks good. I want to make it. I’ve always wanted to make my own tomato sauce. Are these the kind of tomatoes you used? or was it the kind in a yellow can?

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