Tomato sauce

This is a really simple recipe for an Italian style tomato sauce.  In the UK we tend to dress our pasta with a lot more sauce than the Italians do (dare I say too much? ). If you can’t find really ripe fresh tomatoes, use tinned. You won’t get good results with supermarket ‘bounceable’  toms. This recipe is makes enough sauce to dress 4 portions of pasta. Really! Trust me!  🙂 On this occasion I served the sauce with linguine, but it goes equally well with many other short or long pastas (e.g. spaghetti, bucatini , sedani, penne, cavatelli etc.)

Tomato sauce ingredients

Tomato sauce ingredients

  • 250g tinned tomatoes or peeled fresh tomatoes
  • A pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt
  1. Put the tomatoes and their juice into a saucepan along with the garlic, sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cover and heat gently for about 30 minutes without stirring.
  2. Remove the garlic and mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. If you’re using tinned tomatoes cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes  until the sauce has reduced.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Immediately before serving, stir in the olive oil and the basil.
  5. Use to dress pasta
Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Tuna loaf

Polpettone di tonno ai capperi. This is the favourite dish of Macio, one of my friends from Bergamo. He always cooks it when he has guests. It comes from Sale & Pepe, one of the better food magazines. It can be served as an antipasto or a main course. When I made it I didn’t process the paste long enough, so the loaf was a bit loose. It was delicious though. Serves 4 as a main course 8-10 as an antipasto.

Tuna loaf ingredients

Tuna loaf ingredients

  • 2 200g tins of tuna in brine
  • 2 egg whites
  • 20g grated grana or parmesan
  • 2 tbsp capers in vinegar
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  1. Drain the tuna and mash with a fork.
  2. Combine the tuna, egg whites, grana, the zest of the lemon and the drained anchovy fillets and whiz in a food processor until you get a uniform paste. Mix in the whole capers.
  3. Soak a sheet of grease proof paper in water for a couple of minutes and lay it flat on the work surface.
  4. Place the tuna mix onto the centre of the paper and form into a thick sausage shape. It help if you do this with wet hands.

  5. Roll up the paper and twist the ends to form a ‘Christmas cracker’ shape. Tie the ends with kitchen string.

    Tuna loaf ready to cook

    Tuna loaf ready to cook

    Poach the roll in just boiling water for 45 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

  6. When ready to serve, unwrap the loaf and cut into 1-2 cm rounds.
  7. Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil, the juice from the lemon, chopped basil leaves and a pinch of salt.
  8. Serve with green salad leaves (rocket, lambs lettuce etc. anything you fancy)
Tuna loaf

Tuna loaf

Meatballs in tomato sauce

Polpettine al Sugo. A lot of people mistakenly think that this dish was invented in the USA, but although it’s not nearly as common here as it seems to be in the states, it is Italian through and through. It tastes even better heated up the next day. I served it with linguine(a bit of a crime: ragu should be served with a ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle) the first day and polenta the second, but it goes with pretty much every kind of pasta.

meatballs in tomato sauce ingredients

  • 300g  minced beef
  • 100g Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese — grated
  • 1 egg
  • 30g dry bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500g passata
  • 1 handful basil leaves, torn
  • olive oil
    1. Mix together the beef, sausage, the breadcrumbs moistened in a little water, garlic and parsley in a bowl. I find it easiest to use my hands. When it is well mixed, season with salt and pepper and mix in the egg.
    2. Form into small meatballs, about the size of a marble.

meatballs

  1. Fry the meatballs in plenty of olive oil until they are evenly browned. Drain on Kitchen towels.
  2. Drain the excess oil from the pan, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.
  3. Add the passata and basil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the meatballs and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with your favourite pasta or with polenta.

meatballs in tomato sauce finished dish

meatballs with polenta

UPDATE

Now I’ve been here a while I realise that I’ve been very English and got things a bit wrong. :hangs his head in shame: The recipe above is still authentic, but the Italians don’t serve the meatballs with the pasta. They are eaten as the secondo.

Maryann puts it better than I can(see comments):

I think why most people say spaghetti and meatballs originated in American is that they eat it all on the same plate, in the same course. In my family, first the macaroni, then the meat from the sauce.

Nonna Stella’s Pesto

This recipe is not for what we normally think of as ‘pesto’. A huge number of Italian sauces start with what’s known as a ‘soffritto’. Usually that means finely chopped onions, carrots ,celery, and possibly garlic. Nonna Stella prepares her soffritto in advance and keeps it in a jar in the fridge. She also adds celery leaves, parsley and basil to the mix. When you need to make a sauce, let’s say for example a tomato sauce, all you need to do is fry a couple of tablespoons of the pesto for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes. Cook it down for ten minutes and you’re done. Fast food Italian style 🙂 . This is possibly the most useful recipe I’ve picked up. It will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge, if you remember to keep it covered with about a centimeter of oil.

pesto ingredients

You’ll need:-

  • Good olive oil
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery (Including leaves if possible)
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • The quantities are a matter of taste, but I use roughly equal quantities of onions and carrots and halve the quantity of celery.
  1. Peel the onions and carrots.
  2. Roughly chop the onions, carrotts and celery and whizz in a food processor, adding a little oil from time to time, until you have a smooth paste.
  3. Add a good handful each of celery leaves, basil and parsley and process again, adding more oil when necessary, until the herbs are incorporated into the paste.
  4. Transfer to a clean jar, a traditional pickle jar would be ideal, and pour a least a centimeter of oil on top.
    Keep in the fridge until needed.

pesto finished

Here’s Nonna Stella herself to show you how it’s done.

The pesto will only be as good as the ingredients you use. Above all, use the best olive oil you can find. Nonna Stella is very proud of the oil produced by her grandson in Cassano. They don’t have to buy oil in her house. I wish I had a supply 🙂

 

Meatloaf in tomato sauce

This dish can be eaten hot or cold. If you like you can use some of the sauce with some pasta  as the first course. Polpettone al sugo is eaten all over Italy. Serves 8

meat loaf ingredients

  • 1 kg minced beef
  • 250g bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 60g parmesan – grated
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 cans plum tomatoes
  • handful of basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  1. Mix together the meat, bread crumbs, parsley, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper
  2. Form into a large oval meatloaf.
  3. Fry the loaf in a large casserole until it’s golden-brown on all sides.

meatloaf ready to cook

  1. In a seperate pan, fry the onion in olive oil until golden. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, break up with a wooden spoon and cook over a medium heat for about ten minutes.
  3. Add the sauce to the meatloaf, cover and simmer for around an hour.
  4. Towards the end of cooking, remove the lid to allow the sauce to thicken.
  5. Let the meatloaf rest for ten minutes before serving.

meatloaf finished dish

Orecchiette with braciole and ragu

Don’t panic when I tell you the main ingredient is horsemeat 🙂 It works just as well with beef. Thanks to Antonella for the recipe. If you are wondering why there are more photos than normal, I prepared this dish so I could post the recipe on another forum. If you like you can serve the sauce with the pasta as the first course, and the braciole as the second course.

Ingredients for 4 people

Braciole ingredients

Braciole ingredients

  • 400g of pasta
  • 400g thinly sliced steak (horse or beef)
  • A few cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A few spigs of parsley, finely chopped
  • Some grated Grana or parmesan
  • 500g tomatoes – If you can’t get really ripe ones, use tinned.
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Fresh basil
  • Cocktail sticks

And last but not least 🙂

Good red wine

Good red wine

  • It can be served with just about any type of pasta, but here they use orecchiette (little ears).
  • First peel, deseed and chop the tomatoes. It’s much easier if you cut an x in each one and blanch for about a minute. The skin virtually falls off.
  • Then prepare the braciole. Cut the meat into stips about 5cm wide. Put a little garlic, parsley and Grana on each strip. Roll up and fasten with a cocktail stick
Assembling the braciole

Assembling the braciole

    1. Brown the braciole in a heavy pot – one that’s good for slow cooking. Remove and put to one side.
    2. Add the carrot, onion and celery to the same pot. Fry gently until the onion is well coloured.

Braciole frying tritata

    1. Return the braciole to the pot and add a good slug of red wine. Cook until the wine has almost reduced to nothing

Braciole reducing wine

    1. Then add the tomatoes, cover and cook over a very low heat. Cooking time depends on the meat. It should be very tender, but not falling apart. Check every now and again with a sharp knife or a skewer to see when they’re done. Mine took about 3 hours.

Braciole cooking

  1. When they are done, remove the braciole from the sauce. Chuck in a bit of chopped basil. Toss the cooked pasta in a little of the sauce and divide between 4 plates. Remove the cocktail sticks and put 4 or 5 braciole on each plate. Top with more of the sauce, sprinkle on some parmesan and we’re away 🙂 Alternatively, serve the sauce with the pasta as the first course, followed by the braciole as the second course.

Braciole finished dish

I’ve just found out that Tony Soprano’s recipe for ‘Braciole’ (or Brazhool 🙂 )appears in The Soprano Family Cookbook They serve it with ziti though. Would they be the famous ‘Grandma’s ziti’ we were always hearing about 🙂

Orecchiette with aubergine

Serves 4

Orecchiette with augergine ingredients

Orecchiette with augergine ingredients

  •   400 grams orecchiette — preferably fresh
  •   2 medium aubergines — cut into cubes (leave the skin on)
  •   4 tablespoons olive oil
  •   a large handful of basil — torn into small pieces
  •   1 clove garlic — whole
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan with the clove of garlic.
  2. When the garlic starts to colour, add the aubergines.
  3. Add the basil and season with salt.
  4. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes
  5. Discard the garlic.
  6. Serve with the cooked orecchiette
Orecchiette with augergine finished dish

Orecchiette with augergine finished dish