004There couldn’t be a more appetizing picture for me than a pot of any  of Italy’s many tomato based pasta sauces.  Add a regional spin to them and now I’m even more excited.  Today is Sant’Innocenzo Day383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n in my paternal grandfather, INNOCENZO SCARAMUZZI’s Southern Italian town of his birth.  He lived in Grassano, Matera, Basilicata until he immigrated to NYC at the age of 25 in 1915.  What better day than September 22 to share a sauce that comes from his region?  FYI, not sure if he ever made this as Basilicata is a region with 2 provinces, Potenza (West) and Matera (East) and this sauce is made in and around both Provinces. Potenza is probably where it’s native to. It’s called in proper Italian… SUGO L’INTOPPO….in Basilicata or Lucanian dialect it’s called ‘NTRUPPC.  Sidebar here for a second…reasons why Italians are always arguing that THEIR version of any is the right one is because there’s never ONE definition, word, or pronunciation ,let’s just nod our heads and say, “I got it.”  Please do not call it a meat sauce or Bolognese or Ragu’Napoletano because there are many similaries in method and ingredients but there are some differences that make it a wonderfully unique regional sauce.  I will, on this patronal feast day remember my grandfather 156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n by blogging a wonderful sauce from his region.  What better way for a grandson who cooks and reveres his grandfather’s memory then to blog a new recipe for you all?  Right?  I thought so…Let’s cook.


SUGO L’INTOPPO   or  LU ‘NTROPPC…..SAUCE WITH OBSTACLES or A HITCH…what does that mean?  no idea…i’ll guess maybe all the meats in it are being called obstacles SINCE, most Pasta dishes in Italy serve the meats from their sauce as a secondo. Here the meats are served in the pasta so, they are “obstacles” to the pasta…That’s my thoughts and I’m sticking with them. ENJOY!!

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE sliced or removed from their casings



6 14 oz CANS OF IMPORTED ITALIAN POMODORINI (most come from Potenza which is probably where this sauce originated), or 3 28 oz Cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 DICED MEDIUM ONIONS (Don’t even think of adding garlic)




In a large heavy stock pot heat a 1/2 the olive oil and sear all the meats until they are nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl or platter and add the rest of the olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions and rapidly stir them around..why?The liquid in the onions will release all the nice caramelized bits from the meats at the bottom of the pan.  It will also give the onions some color and flavor.Add some sea salt and the peperoncino.  Slowly cook this until the onions are soft, NOT BROWNED.  When the onions are soft, should take about 10 minutes…then add the tomatoes.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then add the meats, bring down to a simmer.  Add some basil.  Pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally.  Drop in the remaining basil leaves and let the sauce sit for about 2 hours before using. Done.

Now what pasta is most traditional?  STRASCINATI which you can make or buy in good Italian markets and pork stores.  It’s a flour/semolina and water rustic pasta that resembles a stretched out orecchiette or cavatelli.  BTW, in lieu of STRASCINATI orecchiette or cavatelli are fine .plenty of PECORINO ROMANO over the servings.003The finished dish using STRASCINATI I bought in a local Salumeria (Italian Pork Store).  Fantastic!!!

The recipe yields enough sauce for up to 3 lbs of Pasta.

Enjoy this view I snapped while coming down the road from Grassano in 2008.








  1. Silvia Soberanis

    Definitely my type of sauce, I appreciate homemade sauce verses paying so much for store bought sauce that has so many preservatives and not even as favorable as homemade. Besides that, I always make extra enough for a couple more meals

  2. Marisa McCormack

    Grassano is not too far from Pisticci where I was born. Yes, this sauce is authentic. I love your cooking and your reverence to the old country and the people, along with their food and traditions. And your Italian is excellent…….do you know the Grassano dialect?

    1. A FOOD OBSESSION Post author

      Thank you so much. I try to honor the Italian and the Italian American. Show the difference. Show where and why changes were made in America. And to show lesser known dishes from the old country. I can’t speak Grassanese but when I hear it it’s like being with my family as a kid.

      1. Marisa McCormack

        Have you read the novel by Carlo Levi, “Christ Stopped at Eboli”. A moving story of the peasants in the poorest forgotten villages of southern Italy, during the 1940s. Grassano is mentioned.

      2. A FOOD OBSESSION Post author

        yes, read it in my early teens…my family in Grassano owned the “hotel” Levi stayed in, they were his caretakers and friends while he was in exile…i have pictures of them with Levi. Many of the “fictional” characters in the book are my relatives.

  3. Marisa McCormack

    Very interesting! Carlo Levi was a special human being….he wanted to be buried there among those poor people he came to know and understand and feel a deep connection. I love the south of Italy…..the people, their cuisine and their philosophy of life. Every time I visit my beloved Pisticci, I find it very hard to leave. Will be visiting Sicilia Bella this May….Che bellezza!

  4. Notes From Nonna's

    I just stumbled onto your site while looking for a recipe for cheese and parsley sausage. I didn’t find the recipe, but found so much more and better information. I then skipped around to several of your recipes. What a delight. My mother’s people are from Terlizzi, near Bari and Trani. How fun to see something closer to me roots. I will be following you.

    1. A FOOD OBSESSION Post author

      Grazie!!! The sausage is made at our local Salumerie…there’s one only 4 minutes from my front door…old school Italian sausage making there…wonderful products.


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