Franco’s Sugo

While Nick and I were in Italy we stayed in an apartment in Rome outside of the city. Originally, we thought we had the place to ourselves. Once we got there we learned that we had a roommate; a 40-something year old Roman named Franco.

Franco spoke 4 words of English. We spoke 4 words of Italian. They were the same 4 words…which meant that when Franco decided he and Nick were going to be best friends, Google translate joined their merry little parade.

Despite our clear language barrier we ended up spending almost every night sharing a bottle of wine, a freshly cooked meal, and stories from home with Franco. In the process, he taught us a lot about Italian culture and even went so far as to teach us his Summer Sauce recipe known as Sugo in Italian.

Here is the recipe, true to Franco’s dictation.


1 carrot (carota) chopped

1 celery (sedano) chopped

1 onion (cipolla) chopped (small)

+ Beef (carne) optional

White wine (vino blanco)

Crushed tomato (pomodora) fresh if possible


Salt (sale) just a pinch

Basil+Pecorino cheese (Cacio)+Pepper (Pepe)+Pasta water


Heat veggies in oil on high heat until fragrant

add white wine/water

add tomatoes and salt

lower heat

add basil

cover and let simmer

add pasta water

ONLY eat with BIG pasta

NO garlic

Make sauce, when pasta starts, turn sauce off, take pasta off 2 minutes before ready and turn sauce back on. Add pasta to sauce, stir, and serve.


Drink with white wine and enjoy with some buttered toast, Louis Prima, and good company.

Side notes from Franco: this is a summer sauce, winter sauces use bigger tomatoes, a little cream, some sugar, meat, red wine, and lots of garlic. Drink with red wine and follow with espresso.

Side notes from Megan: when Franco first made this for us, he used a small can of crushed tomatoes and supplemented with some fresh grape tomatoes. Since then I’ve made this with only canned crushed tomatoes, with canned plum tomatoes I crushed myself in a food processor, and with fresh tomatoes stewed and crushed in a food processor (as seen here). There’s no one way to do it. Every sauce is unique to the day and to the chef. It’s the Italian way.


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