Pasta sauces and a saucy crime story
By Christina Stock
There might be one comfort food that crosses all borders, all cultures and all time: pasta — but what is pasta without the right sauce?
Every since Marco Polo allegedly brought the first noodle from China to Venice, Italy, the hunt for the favorite sauce has caused discussions and arguments. Some are funny, such as how Pasta Alfredo came to the U.S. Hollywood movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks visited a little restaurant in Rome, Italy and encountered the dish. When asking the chef, the quick-witted man came up with the name pasta Alfredo, of course. The funny thing is, him giving the pasta his name is like naming a grilled cheese sandwich after yours truly. It is one of the most basic recipes in Italy. When a child has a belly-ache it gets pasta bianco, simply noodles with butter, salt and a little cheese.
Another funny story is the development of the recipe for sauce Bolognese. This recipe had nothing to do with the town Bologna, the meat sauce was popular throughout Italy, it only got a name once it crossed the ocean and came to the U.S. However, In 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine, an organization dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of Italy, recorded and deposited a recipe for classic Bolognese ragù (ragù means sauce in Italian) with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. In its recipe milk is part of the sauce.
I would have loved to share an old sauce recipe from my German grandmother, but alas, she did not know her way around pasta. She always overcooked the macaroni or spaghetti and seeing it, she’d toss it in a frying pan with some butter. I guess you can say she invented refried German pasta: I might have to name it Pasta Oma Else instead of Alfredo.
Following are a couple of the recipes that I learned to prepare when vacationing as a kid in Diano Marina, Italy, which is on the Italian side of the Côte d’Azur and later when I worked in Rome, Italy as an incentive travel agent.
The recipes for the sauces are for full portions for up to four people. I changed the original amount accordingly as pasta in Italy and in Spain is considered an appetizer, not a full meal and served in small portions. Also, Italians add a table spoon of good butter to the hot pasta before it gets topped off with its sauce.
Rustic oven-roasted pomodoro sauce
One of the most basic sauces, but when using the best ingredients, a wonderful dish
2 pound roma tomatoes
¼ cup good butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
A thick slice of creamy Fontina cheese (or Camembert) per person
Several fresh leafs of Basil
Heat your oven to 325˚F. Slice the roma tomatoes in half. Place cut side down in a roasting pan along with the butter, cut into pieces and the peeled garlic cloves.
Add the salt and pepper then place the roasting pan in the oven.
Roast, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are tender; 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Once the tomatoes are almost done, cook your favorite pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with a tablespoon of butter.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and pulse to puree into a chunky sauce.
Taste and add more salt as desired.
Toss with the pasta. Serve with a sprinkle of basil and a slice or two of the cheese.
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Aglio olio sauce
The recipe for aglio olio (pronounced aweleeo ohleeo) is a classic and favorite for the fall season, when you want to avoid catching a cold, or vampires.
Just as with the pomodoro sauce, the trick is to use the best ingredients. For this recipe, I highly recommend having a fine cheese grater.
1 pound dry spaghetti
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon (peel)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup Freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (don’t use hot water, hot water comes out of the hot water tank and has an aftertaste.)
Add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than al dente, about 9 minutes or according to package instructions.
Reserve a cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering.
Add the garlic and grated lemon peel and cook until the garlic just begins to turn light golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat if the pasta is not ready. Garlic is nasty when it is too dark or burnt.
Add the spaghetti and toss, add a little of the pasta water, if it sticks.
Add salt and pepper and toss.
Remove from heat, stir in the parsley, grated cheese and remaining olive oil and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
You can add some more freshly grated slithers of parmesan cheese on top each dish and some more parsley to make it look good.
P.S. Do not eat this if you have an important appointment the next day or need to see the dentist. Also, a couple that eats garlic together, stays together.
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Hey, it’s Italian sauces and pasta, of course, I’ll recommend a crime story, this story is set within the Veterans community, perfect for Veterans Day.
The book I recommend is by New Mexico author David Thurlo, “Kill The Heroes” A Charlie Henry Mystery.
The book plays in Albuquerque and its surrounding area. It is fast-paced and dives right into the action. The author knows his Navajo community and veterans. The fighting scenes are chilling. The writing is intelligent and smooth with fluid conversations that pack a punch.
It’s no cozy; it’s a shoot-em-up thrill ride. This is the fourth installment in the series, but can be read by itself.
Charlie Henry is co-owner of a pawnshop and Iraq war veteran. He has — for the most part — settled into his somewhat quieter life in Albuquerque when he receives an invitation to attend the dedication of a veterans memorial in a park, where he, other local heroes and first responders are to be honored for their military accomplishments and dedication to the community. But trouble seems to follow Henry. Gunshots ring out, barely missing him and hitting the man standing next to him. For Henry it’s clear; there is a sniper on the loose. More shots are fired and two more veterans go down, injured — not dead, at least not yet. Henry helps the downed veterans, including badly wounded chopper pilot Nathan Whitaker. Then he looks for the sniper. He is not going down without a fight — that perpetrator will learn not to mess with the wrong man.
“Kill The Heroes” was published by Minotaur Books and is available as ebook and limited as hardcover through the usual bookstores and ebook providers.
For more information, visit minotaurbooks.com.