Basic Napolitana Sauce

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Time to get my Italian on. My sister used to work in a fruit shop run by an Italian family. She was a fussy eater when she started there and didn’t like tomatoes. Oh, how quickly that changed! You weren’t allowed to be fussy there. They made it impossible to refuse offers of food. The owner, Peter, would follow my Dad around in the shop with various bunches of fruit and say things like “Warren, try these bananas, they’re beautiful” and put them in Dad’s shopping trolley. It wasn’t long before Dad realised that nothing was ever free, and while this seemed like a nice gesture at the time, he always had to pay for it at the register. Mum would often say things like “why did you buy paw paw?” and Dad would innocently say “Peter made me, I had no choice”, and he was right. There was no choice. So not only did my sister start liking tomatoes because not liking them was not an option, she also learnt about the wonderful things you could do with tomatoes. She worked there for many years and quickly became part of the family. She has dark hair and fair skin so many people actually thought she was their daughter. She worked there around the age when one starts to become interested in cooking and her fruit shop mum, Joanne started sharing recipes. Long story short, I tried cooking my first proper napolitana sauce using Joanne’s recipe and homegrown tomatoes.

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The recipe says to use 1.5kg of Roma tomatoes, but I happened to have about 2kg of Romas and Big Reds so I used a combination.

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It took me forever to take the tops off each tomato, score them, dip them in almost boiling water for 10 seconds, transfer them to an ice bath, then peel them. So labour intensive! The Roma tomatoes peeled a lot easier than the Big Reds.

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I then chopped each tomato in half and squeezed out the juice and seeds. This was also easier with the Roma tomatoes than the Big Reds because the Big Reds have so many intricate chambers of seeds.

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After about an hour of tomato prep I could finally chop them up and chuck them in my saucepan. I cooked the sauce for about 3 hours and it made the house smell amazing! In 3 hours of cooking I probably only needed about one cup of boiling water to add to the sauce.


Homemade napolitana served on egg fettuccine, topped with basil and freshly grated pecorino. It would have been better with parmesan because the strong flavour of the sauce overpowered the pecorino, but I didn’t have any fresh parmesan. I licked my plate afterwards. And Adam kept opening the fridge and sniffing the leftover sauce. Must be a good sign!

8 thoughts on “Basic Napolitana Sauce

  1. And the moral of this tale is: If Nonna’s recipe says Ripe Romas, that’s what you need! They are much, much easier to prepare for cooking than tomatoes designed for eating raw, like Big Red. Trust me, I’m a Chiconi (Ciccione in the Old Country)… I can almost smell the sauce, and the only thing I’d have added is a small bunch of oregano…

    1. Oh my goodness, it took me so long! Next time it’ll be100% Romas! How long would it take you to peel and deseed 2kg of tomatoes? I’m sure I’ll get quicker. I think it felt like a long time cos I knew I should have been sleeping before my night shift, not peeling tomatoes very slowly.

      1. OK, well, I first get a big pan of boiling water ready, then another one of iced water next to it. Using a colander, dunk a batch into the boiling water, leave for a short time and then whip them out and put into the iced water. Slip off the skins. Halve, and with a sharp knife dig out the woody stalk end. Use a sharp edged metal spoon to just scrape out all the seeds and fibre. Cut the remaining scooped out half into smaller pieces into the sauce pot. You can turn it into a production line if you have help but 2 kg shouldn’t take long. And it would help a lot not to be tired…

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