In the South of Italy, there are variations on the recipe for making the tomato sauce that goes with Pasta. Here is a recipe, given to me by my Italian Mother in Law, who comes from Messina in Sicily. The tomato sauce can be eaten on its own with spaghetti, or used as a base for many of the other Pasta dishes that are eaten by Italian families. This recipe has been passed down through the generations from daughter to daughter, (Italian men rarely cook) and is as good today as it has always been.
Step one. Take one large onion. Cover the bottom of a pan with virgin olive oil. Peel and chop the onion and place in the olive oil, adding one teaspoon of salt. Fry the onion gently until it begins to go brown, then add a cup of water and continue to boil, stirring from time to time. As the mixture in the pan reduces, add more water until the onion is colourless and almost dissolved.
Step two. While you are reducing the onion, you can either peel about fifteen medium tomatoes, or open a tin of ready peeled Italian tomatoes. The difference to me is minimal between real or tinned tomatoes, and my Mother in Law uses both, depending on the season. Peel one medium carrot, and slice a piece of braising or frying Beef into several medium cubes.
Step three. Add the tomatoes to the onion sauce that has been reduced, and using a cheese grater finely grate the whole carrot into the mixture. Add the cubes of beef and a couple of cups of water, and simmer gently for about forty minutes to an hour. Stir the mixture occasionally, and add some more water if it gets too thick. The sauce should be the consistency of yogurt.
When the sauce is ready, take the beef cubes out and put to one side; they can be eaten later, and will be lovely and tender.
Boil the spaghetti until cooked and drain away the water, leaving the spaghetti in the pan. Add the sauce into the pan and mix. Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese and a good white wine.
This is the basic recipe for simple ‘pasta asciutta,’ which in English, is translated as Pasta with tomato sauce; this is the staple diet of Southern Italy, and is the basic sauce for many other dishes, which I will be writing about in future articles. Enjoy your meal.