'Elf' Maple Syrup Tomato Sauce

Inspired by everyone's favorite holiday movie
38 Ratings
88% would make again
Elf Maple Syrup Pasta
Photo: Michelle Sun/Tasting Table

All December long, we're bringing you the recipes, tips and tricks you need to Feast your way through the holidays, no matter how you celebrate the season.

We’re kind of obsessed with Elf. Will Ferrell’s grown-up “elf” embodies the Christmas spirit and has an unyielding sweet tooth, even memorably pouring maple syrup all over his pasta in one scene. Inspired, we turned his creation into a legitimate recipe for tomato sauce laced with maple syrup with a sweet and smoky twist. It’s the perfect meal to eat while you watch the movie. And feel free to add candy on top if you want to stay super authentic to Buddy.

The sweetness of the maple syrup plays perfectly with the smoky pancetta for a rich tomato sauce perfect for any weeknight meal. While this sauce works on a classic plate of spaghetti, try it with your next pot of meatballs or tray of lasagna.

Check out our favorite pasta recipes.

'Elf' Maple Syrup Tomato Sauce

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 4½ cups

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes


4 ounces pancetta, small dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes

6 tablespoons maple syrup

Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 thyme sprigs

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat the pancetta and olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook until the pancetta is golden and the fat has rendered, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the maple syrup and cook until slightly reduced, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, then cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 40 to 45 minutes. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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