Make Ahead

Spaghetti alla Sylvia Thompson

February 25, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 10
Author Notes

Sylvia Thompson's book, "Feasts and Friends", is one of my most revisited cookbooks, at least for reading. She lives her life in an interesting way, and was the god-daughter of MFK Fisher, and the daughter of film star Gloria Stuart. She is a great, ambitious cook and gardener, as well as wife and mother. This recipe for a Sunday pasta sauce came from Spacca-Napoli, but I have simplified it and made it dozens of times for a crowd. —luvcookbooks

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Luvcookbooks is a physician who lives in the Bronx and has more than a few pasta recipes up her sleeve.
WHAT: A one-pot pasta sauce for a hearty, all-in-one meal.
HOW: In a large casserole dish, simmer canned tomatoes, fresh red peppers, and eggplant with sliced garlic and lots of olive oil. Add in some anchovies, capers, and olives for a hit of salt, and serve it over rigatoni with torn basil and grated Parmesan.
WHY WE LOVE IT: There's something about waiting for a rich, tomato-based pasta sauce to simmer that makes us feel like we're in Sicily, sipping red wine and watching the fishing boats bob in the Mediterranean from our terrace—okay, we're getting carried away, but this pasta does that to us. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 splash Olive oil, as needed
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 red peppers, diced
  • 1 large purple eggplant, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces preserved anchovies in olive oil or salt
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, chopped in 2 to 3 pieces each
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1 pinch Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds rigatoni
  • 1 handful fresh basil, torn, or dried oregano to taste
  • 1 dash Grated Parmesan, to taste
  1. In a large, heavy casserole dish, pour in enough olive oil to create a film along the bottom plus a little more. Bring over medium heat and sauté the garlic slices for a few minutes. Do not let them color, but make sure they soften and start to smell fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and peppers and add a little more olive oil. Small drops should appear at the top of the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, uncovered.
  3. When the peppers start to soften, add the eggplant with a little more oil: You don't want too much. Only add oil until small drops appear on the surface. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let it cook for about 45 minutes, until everything is tender but not falling apart. Check every 15 minutes or so as it may take less time.
  4. Break the anchovies into small pieces. Drain if using canned, and soak to de-salinate if using salted anchovies. Add them to the pot along with the olives and capers. Simmer, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Add salt (if needed) and pepper to taste. I like lots of pepper—this is a hearty dish.
  5. Cook the rigatoni to al dente, then drain and place into a serving bowl (Sylvia Thompson uses spaghetti, but I feel the sauce is too hearty and slips off the spaghetti, though I did try it because I have deep respect for her).
  6. Stir in the basil, sauce the pasta, and serve with additional Parmesan and even olive oil if desired. A nice red wine and salad are all that is needed to go along with it.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maria Petri
    Maria Petri
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
  • Smaug
  • inpatskitchen
  • fiveandspice

9 Reviews

Maria P. October 1, 2015
Awesome! I'm a total dummy when it comes to cooking, but everything went well and I was very proud of myself. Thank you <3
luvcookbooks October 4, 2015
Happy to hear that the recipe worked! I'm proud of you, too!
Annie S. September 27, 2015
I was looking for pasta inspiration and foun this. Sylvia Thompson's name made me take notice. I was a very young mother(21) in 1971 and I found her book Economy Gasrtonomy and it changed everything about how I cooked. I had no budget. This book made all of my family and friends refer to me as a gourmet. It was her casual no charge style that gave me tons of confidence. I have cooked everything in that book and I cherish it. There were foods that I had never heard of (Moussakah!) but I needed to make them and share the results. Thanks for your great recipe and the memories it brought back!
luvcookbooks September 30, 2015
I have a copy of Economy Gastronomy also! So happy I can virtually meet another person who is enthused about Sylvia Thompson. Thanks for commenting!
Smaug August 29, 2015
There seems to be a plentiful lack of spaghetti in this spaghetti recipe.
inpatskitchen August 19, 2015
Congrats on the Wildcard win!!! This looks so yummy!
luvcookbooks September 4, 2015
Thanks! It was a nice surprise.
fiveandspice February 25, 2014
Yum. This sounds wonderful. Definitely saving it to give it a try!
luvcookbooks March 4, 2014
Happy to hear you liked the recipe. Just be sure to have a crowd on hand. It will rest quietly off the heat for a few hours, which is handy, but once it goes in the refrigerator it will not be the same.