Okay, I have been encouraged to depart from the music stuff to blog a bit about my culinary skills….they’re not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Being half Italian, it’s only logical I know a little bit about cooking. The other half is English….that’s the “Bailey” part. You can guess which side of the family I gravitated to on holidays even as a child. Let me see….do I want overcooked boiled beef with unseasoned turnips or do I prefer homemade lasagna with grandma’s meatballs and Italian sausage?
I don’t think I’m alone in regarding food from Italy to be the best. Believe it or not, my second choice is Japanese cuisine! Love it, cooked or not.
But as the season for decent tomatoes winds down, I am compelled to make the simplest of red pasta sauces combining a mere seven ingredients and more importantly, taking only thirty minutes to prepare. The secret to its success lies within the tomatoes themselves. They must be as ripe as possible…somewhat over-ripe is even better. If you know the vegetable manager at your store, he may even set aside tomatoes having perhaps a small defect or bruising which makes them unsellable. But for our purposes, the bad parts can be cut off using a paring knife and the rest of the tomato works just fine.
As you read through the recipe, please don’t think I forgot to list the onion or meat components. There aren’t any! Now, before you decide not to read further, please give this sauce a chance. Its taste is intense so use it sparingly on the pasta (rigatoni, penne, farfella, etc., not the fettuccine or linguine type) so that the sauce lightly coats the pasta. This is what I call a last-minute dish guaranteed to satisfy your family or unexpected guests (who will think you slaved away all day preparing it)!
Make sure to have on hand some fresh Italian bread as well as grated Parmesan cheese in the house as well. I happen to like the bread plain for this dinner seeing as there will be an abundance of garlic already in the gravy. As much as I adore garlic bread, I think it’s too much of good thing for this recipe.
If you’d like, serve it with a European salad of some kind…….remember, salad comes AFTER the main course in Europe. It naturally creates a refreshing, palate-cleansing finish to the meal. Romaine lettuce mixed with a bit of arugula, endive, dandelions, mustard green or rapine are all good options to create a refreshing complement to this pasta dish loved originally by the common people of Old Italy simply called, Salsa Fresco.”
8-10 medium ROMA or BEEFSTEAK tomatoes (very soft to the touch)
10-12 gloves of garlic (sorry, forget the pre-chopped jar variety, it won’t work)
a hand full of chopped basil (absolutely must be the fresh stuff, not dried)
1/2 tsp. powered chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tps. dried red pepper (optional)
2 tab. olive oil
1 lb. dried pasta
Heat a large pasta bowl in the oven set on warm.
Prepare garlic by crushing gloves with the side of a large knife; remove the outside; chop gloves into pieces.
Prepare tomatoes by removing unwanted parts and core; cut into quarters LEAVING SKIN ON; place into a blender and liquefy.
Pour olive oil into medium size pot or large skillet (it will cook down faster in the latter).
Heat oil over LOW flame; put in the prepared garlic; saute making sure not to burn the pieces (or yourself)
Make certain heat is set no more than low-medium before adding the following!!!!!!!
CAREFULLY and SLOWLY pour the blended tomatoes into the pot or skillet
Add bouillon, sugar, chopped fresh basil and red pepper; stir from the bottom until the sauce commingles.
Boil slowly until the liquid reduces (about 10-15 minutes depending on the water content in the tomatoes) to a loose paste; continue to stir occasionally, detaching and blending in any pulp sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Fill a medium-large pot 2/3 the way with water; bring to a boil (cover the pot to expedite this time always monitor the water boiling progress carefully to avoid the lid from popping off from pressure).
Pour in one pound of pasta and boil for the time suggested on the box (around 6-8 minutes); strain.
Take the large serving bowl from the oven; pour the strained pasta into the bowl; cover with pasta sauce; fold in the sauce to coat the pasta. Remember, if too much sauce is used, the tomato flavor becomes overwhelming.
Sprinkle with grated Italian cheese and serve. An extra basil leaf or two placed on top just befoe serving completes the presentation……and shows you to be an elegant chef, even if you’re not. I’ll never tell.