An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's All in the Sauce

Part I: The Disclaimer

When I was recently asked to share an authentic Italian recipe for tomato sauce, I was a little reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons, the most important one being this: Italy is divided into six geographical areas -- Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southern, Sicily, and Sardinia -- and these areas encompass 20 different regions. In each of these regions are cities, villages, and towns with countless Nonne who have THE family recipe for salsa di pomodoro (tomato sauce).

You see, now, the problem. Even within my own family every one makes tomato sauce a little differently.

Then there is the question of whether one should use fresh tomatoes from the vine or canned tomatoes, a question which always puts me on the defensive because to answer anything other than "fresh tomatoes" means taking the chance of not being thought of as a real Italian.

So, by all means, if you have a huge tomato garden use fresh tomatoes because, truthfully, it really does make a difference in consistency, taste, texture, and even the color of the sauce.

On the other hand, if your gardening consists of a few tomato plants grown in terra cotta containers on your deck (like me), then you probably don't have enough tomatoes to make a sauce. In this case, canned tomatoes work just fine.

Again, you see how things can get complicated?

So, before I go further, know that the secret behind a true, authentic Italian salsa di pomodoro is this: no one is an authority . . .and everyone is an authority.

It just depends to whom you are talking.

Part II: The Recipe for Salsa di Pomodoro

Life is a combination of magic and pasta.
-Federico Fellini

28 oz. can peeled, crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
handful of fresh basil leaves

In a saucepan, heat the garlic in olive oil (about 2 minutes). Add the tomatoes and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Spoon sauce over cooked pasta. Top with freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano.

Buon appetito!

III. In Conclusion

Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper ... these are all the ingredients you need for a basic tomato sauce. This sauce is light and complements almost any style pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, or penne. It is also a sauce you can build on; for example, sometimes we add a finely grated carrot or onion for a different texture, a splash of wine for a more intense flavor, or, for a heartier dish, some ground meat. The beauty of la salsa di pomodoro is that it can stand alone, or it can be used as a foundation for more complicated recipes.

Simple, and yet not so simple.

But a wonderful reflection of the paradox that is la dolce vita.

My name is Maria, and while I like to enjoy life one cappuccino at a time, I have also been known to measure life's pleasures in terms of bowls of pasta.


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

I am one of those people, and I don't care if it's authentic. I care if it's yours.

Make sense?

Ua said...

I agree - the simpler, the better! I have decided I want to grow my own basil. A co-worker gave me a stalk of home-grown basil with about 50 leaves on it... and I used it all up this weekend! YUM!

tiziana said...

Che buona la pasta al pomodoro!! Hai ragione, in Italia non solo ogni regione ha la sue specialità, ma anche le città o addirittura i paesini. Pensa che per esempio, a Vicenza che è vicinissima a Verona non sanno come fare la "pearà".
Adesso ti svelo un piccolo segreto della nonna per fare la pasta al pomodoro ancora più buona: Quando metti gli ingredienti, non dimenticarti di aggiungere anche UN PIZZICO DI ZUCCHERO, leva l'acidità del pomodoro (sia fresco che in scatola). I pomodori freschi sono più buoni, ma prima bisogna farli bollire un po' nell'acqua e dopo pochi minuti si devono pelare e frullare.
Oggi pasta al pomodoro anche per me.

Lisa said...

Oh! This is a treasure! Thank-you, Bia! :) We'll be having some Bia Sauce with our next spaghetti dinner and I can tell everyone it's 100% authentic Italian. Awesome. (I LOVE the pic of you, btw! :)