Pasta with Etruscan Sauce

From the Pasta Grannies series, this is a simple pasta with a special sauce made from a quick puree of sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, parsley, and garlic. It's fast, strong, adaptable, and doesn't disappoint.

Pasta with Etruscan Sauce

I thought it might be fun to cook some recipes together this year. Recipes that are new to me, and likely new to you as well. I keep an ongoing list of recipes I want to try from cookbooks, magazines, websites, and e-books, and this Pasta with Etruscan Sauce has been at the top of it for a while. I spotted it while watching Vicky Bennison's Pasta Grannies series on You Tube. It was the sauce in the video with nonna Luigina at La Vialla, an Agriturismo near Arezzo, Italy that got me. A quick puree of sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, parsley, and garlic, is tossed with pasta. It's fast, strong, adaptable, and doesn't disappoint.

Pasta with Etruscan Sauce
The Pasta Grannies video demonstrates how to make a handmade pici pasta to serve with the Etruscan sauce. If you have the time and inclination, by all means make the pici! It's one of my favorite pasta shapes, easy to do even if you've never tried making fresh pasta before. That said, I was a bit pinched for time when I cooked this and reached for a box of ruffled radiatori pasta instead. The Etruscan sauce got wonderfully caught up in all the ridges and curves, and there were no regrets. If you're Italian, and upset about my pasta choice, I apologize in advance. It might not be "right" but it sure was delicious.
Pasta with Etruscan Sauce
I've watched my way through much of the Pasta Grannies archive ( I love them all!), and was lucky to meet the series creator, Vicky, when she came to Los Angeles to promote the Pasta Grannies cookbook at Now Serving. If you haven't seen it yet, keep your eyes peeled. I'm so inspired by these women, and the book with its stories, is such a nice companion to the video series. If you're more of an Instagram person vs. You Tube, you can also find Vicky & Pasta Grannies here
Pasta with Etruscan Sauce

Etruscan Sauce

Back to the recipe - the sauce is a tapenade of sorts, it gets thinned out (a bit) when you add it to the pasta along with a bit with reserved pasta water. The way the recipe is written below, you'll have a good amount left over, so here's a quick brainstorm of other ways to use it.

For starters, this is a sauce that is A+ slathered on all things flat and bread-y or toasted - crostini, flatbreads, pizza, paratha, sandwiches, etc. You can add a dollop to a bowl of beans, for a quick bean salad. I tossed a spoonful with some sturdy lettuces for a side salad at lunch, so good. And you won't be sorry if you pair it with pan-fried artichokes. Let me know any other ideas you have in the comments.
Pasta with Etruscan Sauce

Let's Cook!

I like the idea of taking this site back to its roots - cooking from inspiring recipes and cookbooks, vintage & contemporary. So that's going to be the theme this year. And, I think it's going to be more fun if we cook recipes together! If you end up making this pasta in the next week or two, send a note, or tag a photo or video on Instagram so I'll see it (@heidijswanson // #101cookbooks) ! I'll regram helpful tips, photos, insights, ideas, and riffs we collectively come up with. I'll also posting some video clips in my "highlights" tomorrow, if you want to see how Pasta with Etruscan Sauce came together for me.

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Pasta with Etruscan Sauce

4.75 from 20 votes

You can make the Etruscan sauce up to a few days in advance. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Victoria notes in her her video, the sauce sometimes includes the optional addition of 2 small anchovies. I didn't include them in this vegetarian version, but you would add them along with the other ingredients. As far as pasta choice here - homemade pici is featured in the Pasta Grannies video, but I opted for radiatori (because it is what I had on had) - and its grippy ridges were great. I also tossed in some broccoli, and finished it with crushed kale chips, but you'll see that's optional in the recipe. Enjoy!

  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup / 3 ounces grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 large handful of parsley (leaves and stems)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

  • 1 pound dried pasta
  • 1 head broccoli florets (optional)

  • 1/2 cup kale chips, crumbled (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.


In the meantime, prepare the Etruscan sauce. Place the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, parsley, egg, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt into a food processor and blend well, but not too much. You still want a bit of texture. Set aside.

  3. Salt the boiling water, and stir in the pasta. Cook until al dente, and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water for later. Stir in the broccoli if using, one minute before draining. After draining, return the pasta and broccoli to the pot, over medium heat, along with about 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir in half of the Etruscan sauce and toss until everything is well coated, adding more sauce to your liking (taste as you go). Serve sprinkled with crushed kale chips (if you like), or dusted with more Pecorino.


Adapted from the Pici with Salsa Etrusca recipe featured in Vicky Bennison's wonderful Pasta Grannies You Tube series. 

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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4.75 from 20 votes (14 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


This recipe was really delicious and the tip to add broccoli at the last minute of cooking pasta is pure genius! Thanks for sharing with the world 🙂5 stars

Christina Conrad

I just made this for lunch over some lentil penne rigate and good GRACIOUS it is incredible. Magical. The broccoli is a perfect addition! I skipped the hard boiled egg because I didn’t have one. Heidi, you are amazing. Thank you!5 stars

Gina des C

I have sun dried tomatoes but not in olive oil: what should I do as I definitely need to make this recipe!!! Thank you so much.


    Tricky Phyll! I hate to say it, but I think the olive oil is fundamental to this one.

    Heidi Swanson

This was a winner with everyone in my household including my “no tomato sauce ever” 6 year old, my cacio e pepe loving 9 year old and my ‘must have long simmered sauce’ husband.5 stars


    Love it!

    Heidi Swanson

I love the idea of getting back to your roots and cooking from found recipes. You have “discovered” some real gems over the years and I’m looking forward to seeing and trying some new/old dishes. This one looks delicious. I’ll be giving it a try this week.


this sauce is divine!

i imagine it gets used up so quick, this is never an issue, but do you think the leftover sauce would freeze well?


    Hi Cat, I think it will!

    Heidi Swanson

How do you think this sauce will do in the freezer?


    I think okay!

    Heidi Swanson

Made sauce without garlic or red pepper (my GI issues) but with parm cheese since that’s what I had on hand. Also went a little lighter on the cheese and oil and did not affect taste, it was delicious! Served mixed over Trader Joes Kale gnocchi…amazing combo! Didn’t use all the sauce on first meal, will use more to moisten left overs for 2nd meal. Definitely a sauce/pesto to use on more things and a recipe to repeat!


    Glad you enjoyed it Shirley! Thanks for the note.

    Heidi Swanson

I made this last night and will use it for lunches this week. The sauce was different than anything I’ve made before. I used Parmesan cheese from my freezer that I already had, and Farfaille (bowtie) pasta; I noted how helpful it was to have wavy pasta to “catch and hold” the sauce, so I thought this would suffice. I added maybe 65% of the sauce to one package (12 oz) of the pasta. I also added the broccoli; I thought maybe oven roasted broccoli florets might be nice, but I ran short of time and just threw them into the pasta before draining as mentioned.

So I just finished my first serving. I really enjoyed the flavor of the sauce. I may add more sauce for my next serving. The sauce was so unusual from anything I’ve made before for pasta. Almost like a pesto. I would think it would be good on crusty bread or a focaccia. Even if I add more sauce I will still have some left over, I will post about how I use it. Thanks for this recipe, Heidi!4 stars


    Love the idea of roasting the broccoli Alison! And I can imagine farfalle pasta being A+!

    Heidi Swanson

Thank you for this idea. I will try some day.
You mentioned parsley as an ingredient, but could not find it in the Instructions. Would you please advice me when to use the parsley and if it is chopped?
Best wishes, Enrique4 stars

Enrique Henny

    Hi Enrique! It’s in there – just a good handful, leaves and stems. Hope you enjoy.

    Heidi Swanson

Question…. how do you keep track of all the recipes you want to make? I’m thinking of starting (yet another) binder broken up into seasons and placing recipes in there like that. Printed from online or tore out of magazines/newspapers….. There’s just so many! I’m totally overwhelmed.


    Hi Dana, I use a mix – drawers, lists, binders – or sometimes pin boards…

    Heidi Swanson

Historically speaking, the Etruscans would not have had tomatoes. Just a a fine point on very good sauce.

Michael Griffith

    I’ll let you fight that out with the grannies 😉 xx!

    Heidi Swanson

I love this idea! I will try to make this pasta dish soon. It sounds wonderful. (I have been following you for a long, long time)


Can’t wait to try this as I found a stash of years-old homedried cherry tomatoes recently. Thanks for the quick and easy recipe!


Do you use curly parsley or flat-leaved parsley?4 stars


    Hi Pindie, I used flat-leaf.

    Heidi Swanson

I”m a big Pasta Grannies and Vicky fan too! So glad to see the two of you coming together here.

Elizabeth Minchilli

    xo Elizabeth, hope all is well with you!

    Heidi Swanson

Haven’t heard of the Grannies before but this looks like a good first recipe to start your theme! I should be on board for making it in the next week— thanks for sharing.


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