Rosemary and Sage Pasta Sauce

Sugo al Rosmarino e Salvia

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Enough Sauce for 1 Pound of Pasta, Making



Appears in

What delights me most about Italian cooking, and what still excites my interest, even though I have been practicing it for a lifetime, is its infinite resourcefulness, its amazing adaptability. “Muoio di fame—I am starved,” declared my dear Victor one morning, standing in the kitchen door.“What are we having for lunch?” “I have made lamb stew,” said I. “Oh, I am so hungry, but I am really not in the mood for a meat stew” “So, what are you in the mood for?” “Pasta, with something zesty and appetizing on it.”

To cook something and not be able to serve it is crushing, but what I find even more discouraging is to watch my husband eat my food dutifully but unenthusiastically. I looked around to see what I had: There was pancetta in the refrigerator, sage in a window box, and rosemary growing on the terrace. In a basket on one of the counters I always keep onions. I had no fresh tomatoes on hand, but I had canned ones in the cabinet. I chopped the onion and the pancetta; sautéed the onion briefly in olive oil; added some sage and rosemary, then the pancetta, and then the tomatoes. I put on water for the pasta, when it came to a boil I dropped in the pasta, and by the time the pasta was cooked, the sauce was done, and for that day at least, my husband staved off starvation.

Admittedly, it went so fast because I was making only enough sauce for two and using canned tomatoes. When I tried it for six on a subsequent occasion, with fresh tomatoes, it took me 15 minutes longer.

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  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 4 fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon chopped dried leaves
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons very finely chopped dried leaves
  • 2 tablespoons very finely chopped pancetta
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice or ripe, firm, fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeds scooped away
  • Salt
  • Black pepper ground fresh


Suggested Pasta

Like all sauces using only olive oil as the cooking medium, this one calls for boxed dry pasta. Spaghettini—thin spaghetti—would be the ideal shape to choose, but bucatini or perciatelli—thick, hollow spaghetti—will also work well. Nor would you be doing badly if you chose a short tubular shape such as penne or maccheroncini

  1. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onion in a 10 or 12-inch skillet and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook the onion, stirring often, until it becomes colored a pale gold.
  2. Add the sage and rosemary, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the pancetta and cook it for about 1 minute, turning it over from time to time.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt, and black pepper, turn over all ingredients with a wooden spoon, adjust heat so that the sauce bubbles at a gentle but steady simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, as described in the Note. (If you have used rosemary on a sprig, remove it before tossing the sauce with the pasta.)
  5. Toss in a warm bowl with the just cooked and drained pasta, swirling into it 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Serve at once.