Scallion, Cherry Tomato, and Chili Pepper Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Cipollottl Pomodorini, e Peperoncino

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, making



Appears in

Cherry tomatoes have long been around, but it is only in the past decade that their quality has so improved that one is more likely to use them for their flavor than for their appearance. Cultivation under plastic canopies has lengthened their season in Italy, from early spring to fall, and although they are very expensive, we are happy to have them when other varieties of tomatoes, either for cooking or for salads, are not at their peak.

They must be quite ripe, and quite firm, otherwise they make no sense. When I can get away with it, I pop one into my mouth before deciding. If it releases dense, sweet juice and full flavor, I buy; if it is thin, vapid, and acidulous, I go for something else.

The Italian version of this sauce, which I had in Amalfi during a wine event my husband and I attended there, requires both very ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes and young onions, cipollotti. Cipollotti are onions at an early stage of development when the bulbs are small and tender. They are sold with their green shoots still on. I have never seen them in an American market, but I always see scallions, which are rare in Italy. Having made that substitution I also opted for jalapeño peppers, rather than the fresh small red chili pepper—peperoncino—that Italians are accustomed to using. Jalapeño is an unusual example of a nontraditional ingredient whose fresh and attractive aroma finds a ready welcome in an Italian dish.

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  • 12 to 14 cherry tomatoes
  • 24 scallions
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very, very thin
  • ½ jalapeño chili pepper, or more to taste, cut into thin rounds
  • Salt


Suggested Pasta

A slim shape of boxed dry pasta such as spaghettini or narrow penne.

  1. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half—any particularly large ones in quarters. Set aside.
  2. Trim away any roots from the scallion bulbs and any wilted or bruised ends from the green tops. Cut the scallions into 2-inch lengths, dividing the white part in half lengthwise. Soak the pieces in cold water, then rinse under running water.
  3. Put the scallions, olive oil, sliced garlic, chili pepper, and salt in a medium skillet and turn the heat on to medium. Cook for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the scallions are very soft.
  4. Add the cut-up tomatoes, turn over all ingredients using a wooden spoon, and cook for 10 or 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Taste and correct for salt and chili pepper.
  5. Cook and drain the pasta; toss it immediately and thoroughly with the entire contents of the pan.