The Story of Sugo by Giovanna Eusebi of Eusebi Deli in Glasgow

Sugo is the holy grail of Italian gastronomy. This simple tomato sauce defines brand Italy. The protagonist of pasta the world over, Italians are fiercely competitive about who makes the best sugo – inevitably, nobody’s ever matches up to their mothers’. All over Italy, Sunday morning air is punctuated with the unmistakable sweet scent of simmering pots of tomatoes. Families around tables finishing meals with the irremissible delicacy of la scarpetta – mopping up the last of the sugo goodness from your plate with bread.

Much has been written about the secrets of sugo making. The great Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo advocated cooking on an open flame, in a wide, low clay pot. Stirred only with a wooden spoon and ready only when you hear it pappuliare – the noise of the bubbles from the base of the pot exploding and popping on the surface.

The best sugo is down to patience, slow cooking and sensational conserva. The ritual of preserving tomatoes defines the end of summer and the start of autumn. It is a food memory that I carry with me; memories of late summers spent with my grandparents in Southern Italy. Making it was a kitchen marathon and my Nonna enlisted all her grandchildren. The preparations took place over several days. Mountains of tomatoes would be picked from her land days before and washed in enormous pails. The bottles, 400 or so, resembling dark brown beer bottles, were sterilised. We would line up like soldiers around a rectangular table. The whole process was executed in Von Trapp fashion.

Nonna would pass the tomatoes through an electric mill, and a cousin would spoon the velvet liquid through a sieve into the lined-up bottles. I was tasked with inserting a freshly picked basil leaf into each bottle. The youngest would finish with a pinch of rock salt. The bottles were sealed with a metallic beer tap and placed carefully into a metal oil drum filled with water. The water warmed by burning logs and the bottles cushioned with old rags and newspaper. The finished bottles, when cooled, were stored in the cantina.

My suitcase would be laden with the prized bottles for my return journey to Glasgow, the memories savoured long after I had bid them a tearful farewell. Each bottle representing solidarity and the love of a Nonna who cared what she fed her family.

Pasta With Quick Sugo

This recipe is a basic pasta sauce. Quick, easy and economical to make, the secret is using the very best tomatoes. At the restaurant, our tomatoes are bottled and produced exclusively for us in Calabria. They are made in exactly the same way my grandmother did and contain only tomato with a little salt – no added ingredients, pesticides or preservatives. This is always an indication of a pure product. I think you can taste the sweet sunshine in them.

Serves 4


  • 400g pasta of your choice
  • 2 tins of tomato pulp
  • A splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ white onion, chopped finely
  • Sea salt
  • A handful of fresh basil

To serve:

100g Parmesan, freshly grated


1. Warm the olive oil gently in a wide pan. Add the garlic, being careful not to let it colour, then remove.

2. Add the onion to the pan and sweat until translucent and soft.

3. Add the tomatoes and a little water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the water content evaporates.

4. Add a handful of basil leaves. When you hear the pappuliare slurping sound, you’ll know it’s ready.

5. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce, add the reserved water, and toss in the pan to absorb the sauce. Serve immediately with optional Parmesan and a few basil leaves.