Perfect pasta sauces

Pasta is one of the most versatile foods on the planet.

It can be paired with an almost endless list of ingredients, including cheese, meat, seafood and vegetables. It can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or main course, in a soup or even as a salad. Sauces for pasta can be cream-based, butter-based, tomato-based, herb-based, or oil-based. It’s an ingredient of cuisine from all over the world and comes in a variety of shapes, both large and small.

Pasta can be made with a variety of other ingredients, including eggs, spinach, arugula and tomatoes. And best of all, almost everyone likes it.

Inside Out talked to a few of Cayman’s restaurants to find out what they, and their customers, like on their pasta.


Michael’s Chef Thomas Tennant says ‘sugo’ is the Italian word for sauce.

At Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Camana Bay, one of the big favourites with customers and employees is pasta with beef sugo and ricotta, a recipe out of restaurant owner Michael Schwartz’s first cookbook Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat. The book recipe calls for pappardelle, but it can be served with other large types of pasta including penne, which is how Michael’s Genuine at Camana Bay serves it.

“It’s similar to Bolognese, but with slow-roasted beef rather than ground beef,” he says. The result is a finer texture than ground beef, which sometimes can be grainy/granular.”

This rich and delicious, stick-to-your-ribs dish has an imaginative medley of textures and flavours.

In his book, Schwartz says the slow-roasted boneless short ribs “give new life to the idea of leftovers” and he suggests it for a Sunday supper.

“The sauce will make more than you need, which you’ll thank me for later,” he promises.

He warns that the pasta should be lightly coated in sauce, not drowning. “There is nothing worse than gloppy, over-sauced pasta.”

Cappellini alla Posillipo

  It doesn’t get much easier than the garlicky mixed seafood pasta sauce recipe called Cappellini alla Posillipo from Ristorante Pappagallo, the Italian restaurant that’s become an institution in the Barkers area of West Bay.

It doesn’t get much easier than the garlicky mixed seafood pasta sauce recipe called Cappellini alla Posillipo from Ristorante Pappagallo.

The preparation of the ingredients doesn’t take long, but it does require peeling the tomatoes, says Chef Marco Signori.  With a knife, a small ‘x’ cut should be put on the bottom of the tomatoes. Then the tomatoes should be lowered into boiling water for 10 seconds, and then placed in ice water.  Once removed, they can be easily peeled, seeded and then sliced in small strips.

Cooking the dish only takes minutes, but it’s important to add the ingredients at the right time. The garlic shouldn’t be added until after the seafood has sautéed for several minutes to prevent it from burning.

Fusilli in tomato sauce

Pasta is a favourite with vegetarians because there are so many different sauces for it that can be made without meat.

Besides the well-known standards like marinara and pesto, vegetarian sauces that feature chunky ingredients like mushrooms, artichokes and eggplant are also popular.

Chef Federico Destro from the restaurant Luca at the Caribbean Club created a simple and healthy tomato-based sauce with eggplant and arugula. The dish isn’t on LUCA’s regular menu, but could show up as a special from time to time.

The fresh arugula tossed in the dish at the end gives this simple sauce a unique and tangy taste.

Sous chef Federico Quiroga says a key to this southern-Italy-styled dish is to only saute the eggplant a couple of minutes at the end so it keeps some firmness.

He also said the dish was open to other ingredients.

“You could easily add chicken, shrimp or any kind of meat,” he said.


From the book Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
4 tbsps     extra-virgin olive oil
1     large white onion, finely chopped
8     garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp     chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp     chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 15 ounce     can fire roasted-tomatoes
3 cups     shredded Slow-Roasted Boneless Short Ribs
1 cup     dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1 quart     low-sodium beef broth
1 pound     dried pappardelle
1/2     head escarole, halved lengthwise through the core
2 tbsps     unsalted butter
1/4 cup     freshly grated Parmesan cheese, such as
Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1/4 cup     Fresh Homemade Ricotta or store-bought ricotta
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

To reconstitute the dried porcinis, put the mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot water over them to cover, about 2 cups. Soak until the mushrooms soften, 30 minutes. Carefully lift the mushrooms out of the liquid with a fork, so as not to disturb the sediments settling at the bottom. Coarsely chop the mushrooms; you should have about 3/4 cup. Strain the porcini soaking water into a measuring cup through a coffee filter or a double layer of paper towels; you should have 1 1/2 cups.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat with two tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion. Cook, stirring until the onion begins to soften, about three minutes. Toss in half of the garlic, all of the thyme and rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped porcini, the tomatoes, and the short ribs. Stir everything together and cook for about five minutes. Pour in the wine, and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Pour in the broth and reserved porcini water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. You should have about six cups of sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pappardelle, give it a good stir, and cook until tender but still firm to the bite (al dente), eight to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the escarole. Place a skillet over medium heat and coat with the remaining two tablespoons of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the remaining garlic and stir until the garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add the escarole, stirring to coat with oil, then increase the heat to high. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the escarole is wilted and most of liquid is evaporated, five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add half of the sugo to the escarole (about three cups), stirring to combine.

To serve, drain the pasta and put it back in the pot. Add the escarole with sugo sauce, butter, and Parmesan; tossing to coat the pasta evenly. Divide among four plates. Top each with a spoonful of ricotta and shower with chopped parsley. Pass more grated cheese around the table.

Cappellini alla Posillipo

8    shrimp (16-20) peeled and deveined
8    scallops (10-20)
8    littleneck clams
8    mussels, debearded
5 ounces     calamari
2     tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tbsp     fresh garlic minced
8 tbsp     extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp     chopped parsley
½ cup     dry white wine
4 tbsp     butter
1 pound     dry cappellini
Salt and pepper

In a medium hot skillet add about 6 tbsp of the olive oil. Season the shrimp, scallops, calamari, clams and mussels with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the seafood and sauté for a couple of minutes on each side, (start cooking your pasta in the boiling salted water). Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and white wine. Reduce the wine by half. Add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the parsley. Drain your pasta and add to the skillet and toss once or twice. Check for seasoning, drizzle a little more of the olive oil and serve.

Fusilli in a tomato sauce
1 box     dry fusilli pasta
1 15 oz     can tomato sauce
½     medium onion
¼     carrot
½     stalk celery
1     clove garlic (optional)
½ smsll     eggplant (diced, no seeds)
2     handfuls of fresh arugula
Olive oil

Very finely chop (or put in a food processor) onion, carrot, celery and optional garlic. Sauce for a couple of minutes with a little olive oil, add tomato sauce and cook on low heat for about an hour. About 40 minutes into the cooking, fill a medium size pot with salted water and bring it to boil. Add the pasta and cook for 12 minutes for “al dente” or 14 minutes for tender. While the pasta is cooking, in a large sauté pan with a little olive oil, sauté the diced eggplant for a couple of minutes until tender but still firm. Add tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain the pasta, add to sauce and at toss with arugula. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.


Stephen Clarke