Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Pasta with corn, tomato & cheese

17 Sep

My friend Peter is what you might call “an acquired taste.”

He is brash, opinionated, often insulting to those who cross his path. I have never met a person with less skill in editing their own words. Which is saying something considering the place I am from.

This is one of the reasons the man is my friend. I never have to wonder where Peter stands on any issue. He is, without apology, who he is. I admire and respect that.

It also doesn’t hurt that he can grow vegetables better than anybody that I know. With few exceptions, virtually every seedling that I plant in the spring has its beginning in Peter’s greenhouses in the dead of winter. On the property around these greenhouses you’ll find fruit trees of all types, as well as a large field where Peter and his wife Claudia grow potatoes, tomatoes and, of particular interest to us here, sweet corn.

A couple weeks back Peter texted saying that the corn in his field was ready to be picked.

“Come over today or tomorrow and take as much as you want,” he wrote.

Before I could answer Peter was back with the kind of snarky blather that is more his custom.

“Oh, and grab a few ears for your girlfriend Marc while you’re at it.”

See what I mean.

Now, Marc is a regular companion of mine, I’ll admit, but he certainly is not my girlfriend.

He isn’t even a girl. I checked with his wife Beth just yesterday to be sure.

Nonetheless, my mission was to score a couple dozen ears of corn and so the next day my girlfriend and I were trudging through Peter’s corn field stocking up.

Which is how this pretty swell concoction of pasta, tomato, corn and ricotta salata came to be.

We start out, as we do with so many good things, sauteeing some garlic (three or four cloves) and a little hot pepper in a good bit of olive oil.

Once the garlic has softened (but not browned) toss in your tomatoes. We’ve got around three cups’ worth of fresh garden tomatoes here.

The basil plants have been growing wild this year. I figured a handful of them wouldn’t hurt.

You can skip this step if you like. For some reason, probably because I am incapable of thinking about corn without thinking about butter, I found myself adding half a stick just for the hell of it.

You’ll need to give it a taste, of course, but after around 15 or 20 minutes of medium-to-high heat the tomatoes are likely to have turned into a respectable sauce. At which point you can add the corn (around two cups here, blanched and cut from the cob) and lower the heat to a slow simmer.

After the corn has warmed a bit (maybe a minute or two) add a half pound of ricotta salata, cut into small pieces.

Then immediately add your pasta and incorporate.

I blanched and froze a bunch of corn and will try this with canned tomatoes in the dead of winter, when Peter is in his greenhouses getting a jump on spring.

Sauerkraut, Italian style

5 Jan

You are not hallucinating. That is indeed a big old mess of sauerkraut being added to a simmering pot of tomato sauce.

Weird, huh?

Not if you are a member of my family, it isn’t. To many of us, this dish has been a staple for many decades. In fact, it was the subject of the very first item that ever appeared on this blog, back in April 2010. (Click here to see the original story.)

It being a new year I decided to start it off by giving this unusual family recipe the full step-by-step treatment, which it did not initially receive. It is the concoction of a man named Luigi, the stepfather of my dear Aunt Laura. Luigi was from Trieste, in the north of Italy and on the border of Slovenia. This would explain his affinity for sauerkraut, but in decades of research I have never once come across a recipe that, like his, puts the stuff together with a red sauce.

You may be tempted to write this off as too oddball a pairing to attempt. I know that it sounds weird, believe me. But I have served this dish to many people over the years, including serious chowhounds and even a couple of professional chefs, and rarely am I not asked to provide a recipe.

Okay, so get yourself a couple of those one-pound bags of sauerkraut you see in the refrigerated case and dump them into a colander so that the liquid drains out. (Luigi did not rinse his kraut, and neither do I, but you may choose to in order to cut down on the acidity a bit.)

Cut up about a pound of pork butt into one-inch cubes.

In a medium-size sauce pot saute two or three garlic cloves (and some hot pepper if you like) until softened.

Add the pork and allow the meat to brown.

Then add two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Then stir in the sauerkraut and turn down the heat so that the sauce cooks at a slow to medium simmer.

In about an hour the sauce should be done, but you could also simmer it for longer. I usually give it a taste and decide.

If you did happen to click on the original story about this dish then you will have noticed that the headline was “Luigi’s polenta.” That’s what we call this dish in our family, and over polenta is the only way that we eat it. I strongly urge you to follow our lead here and have ready a nice potful of the stuff.

You will not be disappointed.

Have a very good year everybody!

Luigi’s Polenta
Recipe

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes
2 pounds sauerkraut, drained of the liquid (you may also rinse it, to cut down on the acidity, though I don’t)

1. In your favorite pot for making sauce, saute the garlic in olive oil until softened. (I also add some hot pepper.)

2. Add the pork and saute until lightly browned.

3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Add the sauerkraut (we use the bags you get at the supermarket in the refrigerated section).

5. Turn the heat to low to medium and let simmer for at least an hour (longer is fine if you prefer).

6. Serve over polenta.

Fresh Arrabbiata sauce

20 Aug

It’s August. I’ve got 20 tomato plants working. What did you expect me to be cooking?

A quick pasta sauce made with fresh, ripe tomatoes from the garden is a hard thing to top. Last year I posted a 7-minute sauce, which is about the simplest I know. A spicy Arrabbiata only requires a little more effort.

I use pancetta for Arrabbiata. This is about a quarter pound of my homemade pancetta, cut into thick cubes. And this recipe is for a half pound of pasta, which should be good for two people. (If you are a member of my family please disregard this last comment and eat however the hell much you want.)

First step is to fry the pancetta at fairly low heat, but don’t let it get too crispy. When done remove the meat from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

This small onion is also from the garden, as is the chopped hot pepper. Saute them together, at medium heat, in the pancetta fat, and also a good glob of olive oil.

Once the onions are nice and soft add the pancetta back into the pan and incorporate.

These are three medium-size tomatoes, and they’re at about peak ripeness.

Chop them up and add them to the pan with the pancetta, onion and pepper, then turn up the heat to high.

In about 10 minutes the sauce will be ready to go.

Add your cooked pasta to the sauce and incorporate, then lower the heat and sprinkle in around half a cup or more of grated Pecorino cheese. Stir it all together and serve.

I could eat this way for the rest of the month.

And probably will.

The 7-minute tomato sauce

9 Aug

Of course I timed it!

I was flying solo last night and so this is a single serving. It relies heavily on a just-picked summer tomato, but when desperate for a fix store-bought on-the-vine types are an acceptable alternative.

Let’s have at it, shall we.

While you are heating olive oil (for one minute at medium high heat) in a small pan, dice the tomato and one or two garlic cloves.

The garlic goes into the pan first, and should saute for a minute and a half at medium heat.

Then the tomato and three or four fresh basil leaves go in, plus salt and pepper to taste. At this point bring the heat back up, nearly to high.

And four and a half minutes later this is what you have got.

Hell, the farfalle took 12 minutes.

Haddock alla puttanesca

25 Jun

Whenever I need a good dose of old school Italian-style seafood I go to see John Conte. His restaurant, Conte’s 1894, is a couple hours away from my home, true, but I make the trip gladly and as frequently as I am able. (Click this link and you’ll see why I love his place so much.)

When I cannot make the trip but still have a craving I do what any self-respecting meatball would do: Imitate the master as best I can.

The haddock fillets that you see here were initially sentenced to a bleak end in a diet-friendly, excruciatingly boring oven broil. Then I stepped in and decreed (unilaterally and without debate) that we would offer the poor things the respect that they deserve and give them “The Full Conte.” Which is to say pan cook them quickly in a nice red sauce and serve them over pasta. The way John would.

I decided on a puttanesca sauce for a couple of reasons. One, the flavor intensity is a nice contrast to the mild fish; and two, it’s an easy sauce to make, half hour tops. (Hell, it took longer than that to wrest control of the evening’s menu from the “responsible” adult in attendance.)

Saute some garlic, hot pepper and anchovy in extra virgin olive oil to get started.

Add in a can of crushed tomatoes, some Kalamata olives and capers.

Let it simmer, under medium heat, for maybe 15 minutes.

Lay the haddock fillets right on top of the sauce and turn up the heat.

Resist the urge to move around or turn over the fillets. Just allow the haddock to cook from the bottom up, while spooning some of the hot sauce on the topside.

Minutes later and you’ve got yourself a fine specimen of old school pan-cooked seafood.

It won’t put Conte’s out of business, but why in hell would I want to do that? Like I said, I don’t mind the drive.

Haddock alla Puttanesca
Recipe

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dried hot pepper, crushed
4 anchovy fillets

2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 lb. haddock fillet
1/2 lb. cooked spaghetti

In a saucepan saute the olive oil, garlic and hot pepper for around two minutes, then add the anchovies and stir until the fillets are broken up.
Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and salt, stir and allow to simmer at medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Add the haddock fillet to the saucepan and turn the heat up to high. As the haddock is cooking spoon the hot sauce over the fillet so that it becomes covered in sauce. Cook for around 8 minutes or until the haddock is done.
Serve over the spaghetti, or another pasta of your choosing.

Ground pork & chocolate ragu

6 May

What’s an Italoamericano do in order to mark the best-known Mexican heritage celebration observed in these United States, Cinco de Mayo?

Not a thing, usually. Not this Italoamericano anyway.

And so it was quite the coincidence that I was moved to make this pretty-damn-close-to-Mexican mole sauce this weekend.

It is a Sicilian recipe, one that I had run across in a cookbook gifted to me just last week, Arthur Schwartz’s “The Southern Italian Table.” The Spaniards, Schwartz explains, introduced chocolate and cinnamon to Sicily, via Mexico, centuries ago. And as soon as I laid eyes on his recipe for “Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate” I made a beeline for the kitchen so’s I could check on my ingredients.

How was I supposed to know that it was Cinco de Mayo? All this particular May 5th meant to me was that a big dinner needed to be prepared for the evening, and that my brother Joe would be texting at some point to see if I had made my Derby pick.

Anyhow, here’s the sauce. It’s a snap to prepare, and it’s good too.

¡Buen provecho!

Enna’s Ground Pork Ragu with Chocolate
Recipe
Adapted from “The Southern Italian Table”
by Arthur Schwartz

Makes 7 cups

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1 quart water
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. sugar
Grated cheese for serving

In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan saute the onion in olive oil until wilted.
Add the pork and break up over medium heat until raw color disappears.
Add the wine and simmer for a couple minutes over slightly higher heat.
Add tomato paste and water; stir and bring to a simmer.
Add salt, pepper, cinnamon, chocolate and sugar. Stir until chocolate melts, reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes.
Serve over pasta with grated cheese of your choosing.

Eggs poached in Red Sauce

12 Mar
A storm passed through town a couple weeks back, and a lot of people scored themselves a snow day. On a late-morning drop in at my Facebook page I noticed a Friend trolling for comfort food ideas. It appeared she had made up her mind to lounge in pajamas all day while the rest of us shoveled snow and checked in on elderly neighbors and hunted and gathered to sustain humankind under desperate conditions.
Not that I’m judging.
Anyhow, I kept the attitude to myself and gave the woman what she was after.
“Since I know you keep red sauce around at all times (right?), well then you heat some of it up, crack a couple eggs on top, let ’em poach real nice, then throw ’em on top of some nice toasted bread from the baker of your choosing,” I advised. 
“‘Course, there’s always Cocoa Puffs,” I felt obliged to add. “Like, as a Plan B.”
Some time later the lazy lassie (I’m thinking those jammies with the feet attached, am I right?) managed to summon enough energy to respond. “Meatball, you’re a genius,” she wrote. “I have all of that stuffs.”
I have no idea whether she ever made use of “that stuffs,” but I did only yesterday. I am not a genius, by the way. People have been poaching eggs in tomato sauce and laying them over a nice crusty bread forever. I don’t think to do it myself very often, but whenever I do, well, it doesn’t get a lot more comfortable around here than that.
The only thing I did differently this time was to use these homemade biscuits, which to certain people might make the dish even more appealing.
I prefer bread, frankly. 
But then I also shovel snow. And help old people when they need it. Like in a snowstorm.
Just sayin’.