Sunday Pasta®: Penne al Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

The secret to happiness (and perhaps sanity) is found somewhere between the song “Ball of Confusion” by The Temptations and my grandmother Virginia’s tomato sauce recipe. Below are a couple of verses from the 1970 song, but you should listen to the whole song and read the lyrics for maximum effect. (Click here or paste )  In that poetry, you’ll see that the world is very much the same ball of confusion that it was 40 years ago, as it probably was 400 years ago and as it  probably will be 400 years from now. To expect otherwise is pointless. On the other hand, my Nanni’s tomato sauce is constant.  So simple, so delicious, and so easy to share.  No confusion here, just peace, love, and understanding. So savor the moment; it’s all we get.

Buon Appetito!

Ed Garrubbo

P.S. And to clear up some confusion about tomato sauce, read our About Tomato Sauce.  Also, check out our wine pairings for this dish.

Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey

Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
And the band played on

So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, said nobody knows

Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills
Hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world are shouting
‘End the war’ and the band played on

Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey

Sunday Pasta: Penne al Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

1 pound penne lisce (or any pasta)
1 can (28+ ounces) of Italian tomatoes, peeled, with basil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4-5 basil leaves, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (optional/controversial. See notes below.)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated


Puree the tomatoes in a blender or pass them through a food mill. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until golden. Next, add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper. At this point, a little sugar or additional basil can be added as desired. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until reduced.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it well and add it to the sauce, and mix well over medium heat. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmigiano.


The above measures are a guide, but add or subtract to taste. The food mill is used to remove the seeds, which are said to cause a slightly bitter taste. Nanni used one, but when in a hurry, I rarely do and rely on the speedy blender. Sugar is a controversial addition. My grandmother preferred a slightly sweet sauce and so added it, citing also the fact that canned tomatoes are more bitter than fresh ones, but I rarely add it. She would not add it to sauces with meat, such as a ragu.


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.