Serves 6-8

The soffritto, or sauteed flavor base of a dish, is at the heart of much of Italy's (and the world's) savory cooking. This sauce illustrates the technique while offering a good one-dish dinner. It is a favorite Sunday night supper.

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 2 tightly packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound penne pasta, freshly cooked to al dente, and drained
  • 1 cup shredded Ricotta Salata or domestic Fontinella cheese

Mince together onion, carrot, celery, and parsley. Heat the oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium high. Add the onion combination, the sage, rosemary, a sprinkling of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Saute over medium until golden brown. Stir in garlic, cooking for another few seconds. Add tomatoes and their liquid, crushing them with your hands (please do not substitute crushed tomatoes). Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, or until thickened and rich in flavor. Toss with the fresh basil and pasta. Serve hot, passing cheese separately.

Copyright 1996. Lynne Rossetto Kasper.