How to Make Sugo, an Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce

Sugo is a simple tomato sauce used in a number of dishes like pasta al pomodoro or as a topping for your favorite parmigiana.

There are numerous sauces that can be used with meals such as pasta, pizza, and baked entrees. And when it comes to Italian food, it can be difficult to imagine a meal without a rich, thick tomato sauce. Pizza, pasta, and meat meals all call for a generous portion of a prepared, flavorful tomato sauce. This flavor-infused tomato sauce made on the stove is known as sugo in Italy.

What Is Sugo?

The Italian word for sauce is sugo. It especially refers to a sauce made from pureed tomatoes in Italy. In Italy, every nonna has a specific way of cooking sugo. It’s possible that this recipe has been handed down from mother to daughter for many years. Others simply use dried herbs, while others use garlic or onion, while others use basil. Some people even include carrots as a sweetener. Whatever the case, every family has a treasured recipe, and nonna will typically cook a large pot of sugo on Sundays. This week, numerous meals will employ that sauce.

The best thing about sugo is that it can be customised to your own tastes for heat, sweetness, and thickness by starting with this basic recipe. The thicker and longer it cooks,

How to Make Sugo

My sugo recipe yields 2 cups of sauce.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano


Step 1: Cook the aromatics

How to Make Sugo an Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce

In a small saucepan, heat oil on medium-low. Add garlic clove and basil leaves. Allow the garlic and basil to cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the garlic is dark brown.

Step 2: Add the sauce

Remove the garlic and basil and allow the oil to cool for a minute or so. Then add the sauce, red chili flakes, salt, and oregano. Fill one of the tomato cans with water, swish it around and add the water to the pot. Mix to combine all the ingredients.

Reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 25 minutes until reduced and thickened.

Making Sugo

Tips for Making Sugo

  • To make a sauce that nonna would approve of, use high-quality olive oil and fresh basil instead of dried.
  • Always taste for salt to your preference.
  • If you love cooking ahead, you’re in luck. Double the recipe and freeze the extra sugo. It can be kept for up to one month in the freezer. When you’re ready to reheat the sauce, place it in a pot and bring it to a simmer to heat through.


Gently fry the finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil and add in the finely chopped pancetta, until slightly browned.

  • Now add the steak.
  • Stir gently and cook until browned, then cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture braise gently for 40 minutes.
  • Add the red wine and again let the mixture simmer gently until the liquid has evaporated.
  • Now stir in the salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.
  • Add the tomato puree and enough water to cover the sauce plus about 2.5 cm (1 inch) extra.
  • Now half-cover the pan and simmer the sauce very gently (a bare simmer) for two hours, checking and stirring every so often. By the end, the sauce will have absorbed the liquid, leaving a fully flavored ragu.
  • Check and adjust the seasoning.

Serve the ragu over the pasta with freshly grated Parmesan

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