Sunday, 22 May 2011

Please Tell Me We Speak The Same Linguini

After greeting family with the usual kiss on each cheek and exchanging newsy bits, sooner or later conversations at family gatherings turn to culinary concerns.  Which bakery sells the freshest bread, where to get the best cheese, and "Where did you buy these amazing red peppers?"  

Although it's only food, family members talk with the passion of political-election candidates. "No! It's better if you go around 3 in the afternoon when they're taking the bread right out of the oven!" 

Well, it's not better if I'm at work...

Food tops the list but questions can also involve other matters of the kitchen.  At a family reunion two years after we were married, one of my cousins turned to me and my husband and asked: "So, who threw the first plate?"

When we were newlyweds, I did most of the cooking and was delighted to make pasta every night. My husband didn't like the idea and told me so.  Pointing to the offending carbo in the room he told me he was gaining weight.  The Penne Rigatte with Pesto had to go.  So did the Garlic Spaghettini with Eggplant and Zucchini, Bowties topped with Chicken, Roasted Red Peppers and Gorgonzola and a few of my other favorites.  "But what will we eat?!" I cried.  "Just cut out the pasta and we'll eat without it." 

Wha-?  How do you do that?

I am addicted to carbos-- pasta, specifically-- but I'll take risotto as a  substitute anyday. And bread dipped in homemade sauce?  As a friend of mine says: "Von bite of dat and you go to da heaven."   

Although we're mostly a once-a-week pasta family now, the decision to give up that daily pacifier-in-a-bowl resulted in a pasta metamorphosis that zapped my energy more than a kitchen renovation.   It took years to figure out a different way to live.  Shortly after we negotiated a new regimen of sorts, I decided this change needed to be absorbed slowly.  Try the one cup (ok, one and a half cup) per person rule (yuck), eat with lean bread for a pass by the land of gnocchi for a time. 

Ahhh, gnocchi.  Are they delacacies or bricks?  Everyone who's made them has a story.  Or three.   I'll tell you all about mine in my next post.  In the meantime, here's my family's recipe for basic tomato sauce (add the peperoncino and you've got arrabbiatta).

Salsa Fatta in Casa ~  My Family's Homemade Sauce

Most pasta sauces use basil and oregano but sometimes change is good.  I often substitute those spices with thyme and marjoram for a break but I suggest you use what you like best.  Experiment...maybe try a combination of all four.  That's the advantage to any plate that's fatto in casa.

1 (28 oz)  tin, whole tomatoes
1 (28 oz) tin, crushed tomatoes 
4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
2 cooking onions, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
(1/2 tablespoon peperoncino for Salsa Arrabbiatta)
Thyme, marjoram (1 tsp each)
Salt to taste

Place the whole tomatoes in your Cuisinart (use the plastic or steel blade). Spin for 30 seconds and set aside.  In a heavy sauce pan with heat on high, add olive oil, onions and garlic.  Lower heat and saute, stirring often.  Add a 1/2 tsp each of thyme and marjoram, (all of peperoncino for arrabbiatta) and stir a little more.  Add both tins of tomatoes and raise heat again.  When the sauce begins to boil, add the other 1/2 tsp of each remaining spice and adjust heat to simmer.  Add salt to your taste while it simmers, anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.  Stir a few times in between.  Enjoy with your favourite pasta. Serving size is one cup per person, though I've never met anyone who actually follows that rule.


  1. Thank-you! Can you explain why you put whole tomatoes in the Cuisinart and also buy a can of crushed tomatoes?
    Looking forward to more recipes...especially "Bowties with chicken, roasted red peppers and gorgonzola"! Sounds magnifico!

  2. Hi Creativehands,
    Thanks so much for your interest. I tend to read the labels on most foods and find the whole tomatoes are the only ones that don't come with added spices. This gives me a blank canvas. I can add any flavours I want. Whole tomatoes also give you the option of holding back a third of the tin's contents for dicing. This adds some texture (nice for a meat sauce or Chicken Cacciatore). I buy the crushed tomatoes because they're not as dense as tomato paste. I'm not a big fan of tomato paste (unless I'm eating it straight out of the tin!) I find it too thick and too sweet for sauces. It also takes work to get the consistency of my sauce just right...I've lost the battle too many times. The blend crushed- tomatoes-whole-tomatoes-through-the-Cuisinart blend gives you a sauce that's just right.

  3. Blogger keeps eating my comments!!

    Thanks for the recipe. I can never stick to the one cup rule. Most diets actually recommend only 1/2 cup. How could anyone stick to that?
    Looking forward to more yummy recipes.