Sugo: The traditional Italian pasta sauce for any occasion
This recipe is so simple that you’ll want to make it again and again. And as the preparation time is short, whipping up a big batch at once makes sense — you can then freeze some for later.
The sauce is delicious on pasta, zucchini noodles, and homemade cannelloni. It makes a wonderful base for pizza too!
When I was young my mum made ‘Sugo’ on repeat. It was the first recipe I learned to cook. And there was always a container or two in the freezer for those nights when mum and dad were working. My siblings and I would boil up some pasta, take the sauce from the freezer, and dinner was done!
Working with a few basic ingredients, all you need to make this pasta sauce is a bottle of good quality to passata, one onion, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. I can’t stress enough how important the quality of ingredients is for this dish. As it’s just a few ingredients, make sure the passata is a good quality Italian one with no added salt or herbs. I love to use the brand Mutti. Use extra virgin, full bodied olive oil (no light oils), and be generous with your fresh basil.
The trick to building incredible flavour, is to slowly cook the onion, caramelizing it in the olive oil until it’s golden brown. Don’t add your passata until your onion has caramelized. This dish, whilst simple, requires patience.
The best onion to use is brown – ideally not red onion, a bottle of good quality tomato passata. Avoid a brand that has added salt and herbs. Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil – a bold, good quality olive oil is essential, ten or twelve fresh basil leaves. Using fresh instead of dried basil builds much better flavour. And finally a teaspoon salt – Himalayan or a pinch of pure sea salt works wonders.
There are two ways to make this sauce. Traditionally, my mum taught me to caramelize the onion whole, cook the tomato sugo with the onion whole and then remove it once the sauce is cooked. I always thought this was the traditional way to make it, but recently found out that it was actually because my dad didn’t like eating onion – he only liked the flavour of it. If this sounds like you, thenfollow this method.
Otherwise follow my method below where we blend the sauce with the onion, creating a creamier sauce and enjoying the entire onion.
The first is to chop the onion into large chunks. Then heat olive oil in a saucepan, fry off the onion, occasionally stirring, until the onion is lovely and brown all over and has caramelized. Add the basil leaves and cook about 30 seconds. Then turn down the heat, pour in the entire bottle of passata, add salt and stir. Cook the sauce for about 30 minutes on medium heat so it simmers slowly. Once cooled, down blend until super smooth. Enjoy over your favourite pasta sauce, as a sauce for your lasagne or cannelloni
Variations to this classic pasta sauce
Using the same quality olive oil and passata add garlic to this sauce for a rich flavour.
You can also spice it up with a bit of heat by adding freshly chopped Birdseye chili. This small red pepper is a staple in many cuisines, and it brings a unique flavor to any dish.
For a light tomato sauce, use crushed tomatoes instead of passata. This will give your sauce a lighter texture and less bold tomato flavor.
If you’re looking for an even lighter version, we recommend using fresh Roma tomatoes. To make this variation, blend about a kilo of tomatoes Follow the same recipe above using your fresh tomato blend instead of passata.
You can also fry up some mushrooms with garlic and add to the tomato sauce. Make some plant-based meatballs with legumes, sauté them, and add them to the sauce once cooked.
And for the non-vegetarians, you can add any meat-based meatballs to this sauce.
The best part about making your own pasta sauce is that you have complete control over the ingredients. Many pasta sauces from the supermarket have added sugar (totally unnecessary) and other preservatives. This is completely whole and you can control the amount of olive oil and salt you use to adjust it to your dietary requirements. The sauce on its own lacks protein, so if you are looking for a complete protein meal then pair this sauce with a protein-based pasta. There are so many legume-based pastas at the supermarkets.
How much does the recipe make?
If you use one bottle of passata, this will make enough for a saucy bowl of pasta for 4 – 6 people. Depending on how many grams per person you enjoy, but most definitely 500 grams of pasta will soak up this yummy sauce
Can you store them in the freezer?
Yes this sauce freezes perfectly. I usually portion the sauce out so it’s enough for two people. That way if I just want to whip up a quick pasta for my two kids it’s all portioned out. The best way is to freeze in a zip lock bag. That way if you need to defrost it quickly you can pop the zip lock bag of sauce in bowl of hot water for 5 0 10 minutes.