The following piece : TOMATO SAUCE is excerpted from MANGIA ITALIANO !
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Tomato Sauce? Yes from the very beginning tomato sauce is a big part of our lives. In fact, quite a “Huge” part. We’re Italian and we eat a lot of it. We start at an early age, as soon as we’re able to eat solid foods. As you’ve already learned, we’re weaned on Pastina, those tiny little star shaped pasta, coated with a little butter. After that, besides pureed fruits and vegetables, and then mommy will give you some spaghetti that she’s cut up and coated with a little bit of your first tomato sauce, something you will eat for the rest of your life, “let’s not forget you’re Italian.” With all the wonderful dishes we have available to us, sometimes there’s nothing I want more than a nice simple plate of perfectly cooked Spaghetti Pomodoro, topped with a sprinkling of Olive Oil and grated Parmigiano or Pecorino on top, “there’s nothing better.”
Ok, now whatever you call it; Sauce, Salsa di Pomodoro, Sugo di Pomodoro, or Tomato Sauce, it’s just that Tomato Sauce. So here we go. Without question Italian Food is the undisputed King of ethnic foods in America. Yes we love Chinese Food, which runs second to Italian, and Mexican, French, Thai, and all the rest, but Italian Food beats them all. What are the most popular foods consumed in America? You’d have to say Burgers, Pizza, Pasta, and Sandwiches are in the lead as concerning dishes eaten by most Americans. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce is in the top ten for sure. Unfortunately, a lot of it is not very good. We’re talking about jar-sauce here, something “no self-respecting Italian ever eats.” You can actually say, when people eat Spaghetti in this manner, with not-very-authentic jarred tomato sauce, this so-called sauce (the Jar Kind) is not Italian or even Italian-American, it’s American, and bad American food at that. Please “Please” don’t associate it with Italian-America and the fine food we eat, “please don’t.” So if you eat pasta that is over-cooked, and mushy spaghetti with massed produced commercial Tomato Sauce from a jar? Then “you are not eating Italian,” nor Italian-American, but regular American (not Italian-American) home-convenience food, that’s quick, easy, and economical to make, and not very good at that. Just don’t call that kind of pasta Italian, ”It’s Not,” it’s American, OK, so don’t forget it. Do you get the point?
So when we talk about Tomato Sauce (Salsa Pomodoro) we’re talking about fresh made Tomato Sauce , made with tomatoes, olive oil, fresh Garlic, Pepperoncino, and fresh Basil, cooked at home by you or some family member. And when I say fresh, that doesn’t mean that the tomatoes have to be fresh tomatoes, which are only in season about 8 weeks a year. The rest of the year fresh-tomatoes are inferior to the great product of canned tomatoes, or jarred Passata di Pomodoro (Italian Tomato Puree in glass jars) especially San Marzano Tomatoes that come from the environs in and around Naples, Italy. And there are many great brands of tomatoes canned in the U.S.A as well. One of the best ways of all to make a good homemade tomato sauce at home is if you have your own homemade Passata di Pomodoro from tomatoes grown in your own garden to full ripeness, or Passata that you made from fresh tomatoes that you bought in bulk at an inexpensive price when tomatoes are at the peak of the season. Many Italian-Americans make Passata di Pomodoro (Tomato Puree) from tomatoes they have grown in their backyard and picked at the height of perfect-ripeness perfection. Some people, if they don’t grow them will buy fresh tomatoes in bulk in season and make the passata. Some make the passata with a combination of tomatoes they grew in the garden, and along with a box or bushel of fresh tomatoes from a farm, farmers market, or wholesaler. This practice of growing your own tomatoes and canning them (actually in Glass Jars) is one of Italian-America’s great time-honored traditions, which many families still do to this day, along with another wonderful Italian-American family ritual of making your own homemade wine. But don’t fret if your family doesn’t do this, you can make some great sauce with many of the fine canned and jarred tomato products from America or imported from Italy.
Tomato Sauce is quite a wonderful thing. You can do many things with it; top a Frittata with a bit of your homemade sauce and grated Parmigiano and you’ve got a tasty little meal in no-time. You need a cup or so of tomato sauce to make Caponata and to add to so many Italian recipes as well. When you have a Tomato Sauce already made, you can make many other Pasta Sauces simply by adding different ingredients. You can make Pasta with Zucchini or Cucuzza (Googootz) by simply sautéing Zucchini or Cucuzza (large Italian Squash) in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, adding some tomato sauce and you have a couple new sauces right there. Sauté some Mushrooms, add tomato sauce and you can make Spaghetti con Funghi (Spaghetti w/ Mushroom Sauce). To make the famous Sicilian dish Pasta alla Norma you sauté Eggplant in olive oil with garlic, add “yes, you guessed it,” Tomato Sauce, cook your pasta of choice, toss it with the eggplant and tomato sauce, grate some Ricotta Salata Cheese over the top, and you’ve got a classic plate of the famed Sicilian dish, Pasta alla Norma. Sauté some chopped anchovies with capers and olives, add your tomato sauce, and just like that you have Puttanesca Sauce for Spaghetti al Puttanesca, the sauce of the Neapolitan Ladies of The Night. All these tasty dishes because you’ve learned how to make Tomato Sauce, catch my drift, Capece? And that’s not all. When you have some tomato sauce on hand, you have the base for such wonderful Italian dishes as Eggplant Parmigiano, Veal Parm, or Chicken Parmigiano and more. You’ve got your tomato sauce, you can make all these things, and more. “The World is Yours Chico!”
Excerpted from “MANGIA ITALIANO”
Just PUBLISHED , December 12, 2017
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PASTA con CUCUZZA
As I say in MANGIA ITALIANO in the chapter TOMATO SAUCE, which you can read above, once you have a Tomato Sauce made, besides making SPAGHETTI POMODORO , you can make many other dishes like Pasta con Cucuzza , simply by adding different ingredients in with the tomato sauce. The recipe for Tomato Sauce and other recipes and stories of Italian Food, are in Mangia Italiano, coming in December 2017. Just in time for Christmas. Buon Natale Tutti!
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