A simple, light tomato sauce, made from the last of the fresh San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil, served over choke the priest pasta.

This was our very first episode – a test if you will. You’ll forgive some of the rough production edges. I think it’s still very solid cooking instruction. And a delicious recipe!

Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sugo (Sauce)
With Strozzapreti (Choke the Priest) Pasta

You will only make this pasta when the San Marzano tomatoes are in the farmer’s market in late summer and fall. In other seasons use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Campania.


  • 3 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes or a 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes from Campania, Italy
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt for the sugo
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt for the pasta water
  • 1 pound or 500 grams of strozzapreti durum wheat pasta extruded through a bronze die.  (Of course you can use other cuts of pasta.)
  • 1 tablespoon of a good finishing EVOO to dress the finished pasta
  • 8 fresh basil leaves cut into a chiffonade
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the water for the pasta and the 2 tablespoons of sea salt in a big pot over a high flame until it begins to boil.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in another large pot big enough to hold all the tomatoes. (You can use the boiling pasta pot for this step and then again to cook the pasta if you don’t want to use 2 pots.)
  3. Wash the San Marzano tomatoes and take the stems off.
  4. When the water in the second pot is boiling, put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-30 seconds, until the skin puckers or bursts.
  5. Take the tomatoes out of the water and let them cool on a large plate. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.
  6. Cut the tomatoes in half and then into about ½ strips. Remove any skin, stem from the inside, and seeds if you want. Coarsely chop the tomatoes. (This is a variation from the video to help you get the sugo to the right texture more easily. You can just cook the filleto di pomodoro, the strips, just like I did in the video, if you want. Just make sure the tomatoes disintegrate into a sauce, with some pieces of tomato remaining. This method may take longer and require more attention to help break the tomato into chunks as it cooks.)
  7. Put the EVOO and garlic in a cold pan over a high flame. Saute the garlic in the oil to release its flavor. Don’t let the garlic brown. With the oil sizzling, put in all the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the basil sprigs and stir them into the sauce. They will wilt and release their flavor into the sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes have broken down and a chunky sauce has developed. Most of the tomato water should have evaporated. This should take about 15 minutes, max. Stir frequently. When the sugo is done cooking remove the basil and garlic.
  8. When the pasta water comes to a boil put the pasta in the boiling salted water. Stir the pasta to make sure it doesn’t stick. Cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  9. Roll up the basil leaves and cut into a chiffonade, ¼ inch bands or strips.
  10. Pull the pasta out of the water with a spider or big slotted spoon and put it in the sugo. Finish cooking the pasta in the sugo. It will absorb some of the tomato liquid. Shut off the flame, drizzle the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of the finishing EVOO over the pasta, scatter the basil and sprinkle the Percorino and mix well into the pasta.

Serve immediately.