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Pasta alla Carrettiera Recipe - Cart-Driver's Sauce

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Pasta alla Carrettiera means Card-Driver's Sauce, and is the sort of thing one expects to find in a truck stop -- simple, tasty, and satisfying. It's usually pasta served with a spicy tomato sauce, though there are also unusual variations on the theme. This fairly traditional take is from Gabriella and Cristina, at the Scuola di Arte Culinaria Cordon Bleu in Florence.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 lb spaghetti or similar shaped pasta
  • 1 lb red ripe tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 peperoncino (dried chili pepper)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of salt


Chop the garlic finely and heat it in the olive oil with the chili pepper. Add the diced tomatoes, you may peel them or not, according to your taste. Cook on high heat for about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and salt. Cook and drain the pasta. Put into the skillet with the tomatoes and mix thoroughly.

Serve immediately with the parsley on top.

As a variation, you may slice celery very thinly and chiffonade fresh arugula to serve over the plates of pasta. Finish with shavings of Reggiano Parmigiano cheese.

My observations: The pinch of sugar serves to counter the tartness of the tomatoes, and can be omitted if the tomatoes aren't tart (i.e. if they're really sweet sun-ripened). The other thing to note is that the technique of finishing the cooking of the pasta by tossing it in a skillet with the sauce over high heat is called strascicare (pronounced straschicare, the final e is sort of an English ae), you should drain the pasta a little more al dente than you normally would and transfer it from the colander to the skillet while the colander is still dripping a little -- the pasta will continue to absorb water as it cooks in the skillet, and you don't want everything to become bone dry. If you see a menu entrée for pasta that's strascicato in Italy, e.g. penne strascicate, this is the technique that's used.

Yield: 4 servings pasta alla carrettiera.

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