I simply adore Italy: the people, the food and wine, the long and glorious history and culture, the art. It blows my mind. I hope to live there for a while some day. I love cooking Italian food too. It’s often fairly straightforward. The cuisine tends to stick to the basics; emphasizing the ingredients instead of smothering things in wild, almost incomprehensible, flavors and sauces. Much of it can be made quickly, is good for family style service and is usually popular with diners.
This recipe is based upon one from my bubbly friend, Kristen. She went on a trip years ago to Greece, by chance met an Italian from the outskirts of Rome, and ended up moving to Italy for several years. So lucky!!! It’s a very romantic story, and practical too. Not only did she learn fluent Italian, but she also learned to cook the local foods. What follows is my take on her “Roman” tomato sauce for pasta. This is quick to make; only about 20 or 30 minutes, so is great on Friday evening when you’re tired from work but still want to do some casual entertaining. All measurements are approximate. I encourage you to mix and match ingredients to your taste.
28oz can of diced peeled tomatoes
3 to 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 fillets anchovies or two to three sardines (optional)
3 peeled fresh garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 dry red pepperoncini, broken (or crushed red pepper) to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano or basil; 1 tbs if fresh
12 kalamata or similar olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 package spaghetti or other long pasta, cooked al dente
grated parmigiano reggiano cheese to taste (optional)
Start water boiling for pasta. While water is heating, in separate pan, add olive oil, garlic and anchovies or sardines. (If you prefer more chunks of fish, add it towards the end of cooking process. Leave this out for vegetarian version.) Once oil is hot and garlic starts to cook (about one minute) add tomato, peppers, salt, bay leaves and dry herbs (if using). Simmer for about 15 to 20 min covered. During simmering process, cook pasta. Just before serving use tongs to remove garlic cloves, bay leaves and large pieces of pepperoncini, if using. Add olives and herbs (if using fresh). Toss pasta in sauce in pan. Serve on individual plates or in large serving bowl. Add parmigiano. Makes about four large or six small servings.
I like to serve this with leafy salad in vinaigrette and hearty red wine, perhaps valpollacella. When we had this last night though, we cracked out a 2007 Cotes du Rhone Villages Perrin et Fils. H thought that it had a deep ruby color, was dry and a little spicy on the finish. S thought that it was plummy and very fruit-forward with a long finish with delicate tannins. The wine matched really well with this dish.