Pasta with tomato sauce allo scarpariello from Naples

Pasta allo scarpariello, the shoemaker’s sauce.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

Pasta allo scarpariello da Napoli.

Despite the fact that Italians have been eating pasta since Roman times (or even before) the combination of pasta with tomato sauce is relatively recent in comparison. Tomatoes were actually only introduced to Europe from South America in the 16th century. However, it took a long time for people to stop thinking of tomatoes as a poisonous fruit and start eating them! In fact, the first mention of pasta with tomato sauce was in a recipe from Naples in 1800!

(click to go straight to recipe)

Italian kids love pasta with tomato sauce! 

Once they started using tomatoes in their food, the Italians couldn’t stop and today many people think of tomatoes as being the quintessential Italian ingredient because they are used in so many typical Italian dishes. Pasta with a simple tomato sauce is probably the most common go-to quick recipe for Italian cooks, housewives and mothers. Italian kids love it! I have seen so many young children eating it in restaurants whilst their parents enjoy more sophisticated food!

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

Different ways to make pasta with tomato sauce. 

Although pasta with tomato sauce requires few ingredients, there are different versions of the recipe. Many Italians  just use tomatoes, garlic and basil. However, some add onions instead of garlic and others include onions with carrots and celery too. This Neapolitan recipe for pasta with tomato sauce is slightly different because the pasta is finished off in the sauce to which lots of grated cheese is added.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

A little ‘Allo Scarpariello’ history!

Pasta allo scarpariello is, in fact, one of the most popular and traditional dishes of Neapolitan pasta cuisine. This is a simple tomato based sauce said to have been invented in the kitchens of the Quartieri Spagnoli or Spanish quarter in Naples. This district was home to many artisan workers including shoemakers. In Neapolitan dialect, ‘allo scarpariello’ actually translates to the ‘pasta of the shoemaker or cobbler’ many of whom, food historians tell us, used to eat this dish at lunch time whilst still at their work benches.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

Originally, this was a sauce created to make use of the weekend’s leftover sauce. In other words, what remained of the traditional Sunday ragù to which the shoemakers (or their wives) added a lot cheese because most of the meat from the sauce would have been eaten on Sunday! Cheese served to make the sauce more filling and was something the shoemakers apparently always had plenty of because shoe repairs were often paid for in basic foodstuffs instead of money by poorer customers.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

This quick and simple recipe soon became popular among Neapolitans in general and until today is still often served in homes and restaurants in Naples and throughout Campania!

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

Changes to the original recipe.

However, over time, the ingredients for ‘allo scarpariello’ have changed and instead of the leftover meat sauce, fresh or preserved tomatoes are often used to make a basic tomato sauce to which lots of grated cheese and, sometimes, peperoncino is added. The original recipe also called for lard as the fat in which the sauce was cooked. But, nowadays, most people use extra virgin olive oil which, of course, is healthier.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

Although this is an extremely simple dish, like many other traditional recipes from what the Italians call ‘la cucina povera’ (peasant kitchen), it has also become fashionable and can be found served in even expensive sophisticated restaurants. Michelin star chef, Mario Affinita, has made it at Don Geppi di Sant’Agnello restaurant in Sorrento. His recipe includes datterini tomatoes, lard and three types of cheese.

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

What type of pasta?

Traditionally the pasta served with allo scarpariello is either spaghetti or penne rigate. I made it with large penne rigate, also called penne zite, but lots of other types of pasta can be used. I think fusilli or long fusilli, for example, would be wonderful too!

This is a very simple recipe that takes very little time to make. However, it’s not to be under-estimated. I’m sure you will be surprised at just how delicious it is. Also, if you try it, I’d love to hear what you think. So, please feel free to message or comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Buon appetito! 

(go to the next page to see the recipe. Just scroll down and click 2)

Pasta allo scarpariello Neapolitan pasta with tomato sauce recipe

You May Also Like


  • Michael Roll
    September 7, 2018 10:52 am

    Hi, Thank you for this version of the recipe, I learned a slightly different version, from our side of the family, which I would like to share with you: Frying the garlic and chilli’s is perfect. Once golden removing the garlic, and then the chilli once it changes color. This allows the oil to be infused with both. Tomatoes are then cooked as per yours. The difference lies in that the pasta, once drained, is coated in melted butter, and gently cooked bit in this buttery mess. Then half the cheese is added, to melt onto the pasta, and finally adding the sauce. The remaining cheese is poured on top, and finally a few fresh basil leaves to add the aroma.

    The result is a very creamy, and initially gentle, not too spicy dish… but the more you eat, the hotter it becomes. This was my “gateway” to learning to appreciate hot and spicy dishes. I love this project, and hope that many more will see it and learn about good food through it.

    • Jacqui
      September 7, 2018 11:24 am

      Hi Michael! Thanks so much for your comment! I love the sound of your version of allo scapariello! I’ll have to try it! Like many old Italian recipes there are of course different versions. I guess that’s natural when recipes have been around for generations. I love discovering and trying out so many different pasta recipes and of course types of pasta too. And my hope in sharing them here is that others will enjoy discovering and cooking them as well! All the best from Verona!

Leave a Reply