Pasta Sauce Made Like a True Italian
Growing up with a mother who was 100 percent Italian, I realized from an early age that my mom was a good cook, and her pasta sauce and meatballs beat out all my friends’ moms on the street. I took this for granted until I moved away for college and came to realize that pasta sauce bought in a jar was not a match for my taste buds… I was a certified Sauce Snob. My mother visited me in the city last week, and of course she knew exactly what to bring me—a pot of homemade sauce. Delicious as it was, I realized it was truly time that I learn to cook my own like a real grown-up.
This brings me to Lidia’s Italian Table, a cookbook on William Morrow’s list that I was very excited to discover recently. Lidia Bastianich brings together a delicious collection of over 200 personal recipes accumulated since her childhood in Northern Italy. Flipping through such recipes as Zucchini Cake, Fried Dough, Polenta, and Roasted Calamari reminded me of my grandmother, who taught my mom how to cook. I think the cooking gene may have ended there, but I’m certainly starting to try. Here is a basic Marinara Sauce from Lidia’s Italian Table that is quick, easy, and perfect for a bowl of pasta.
- Makes about 3 1/2 cups; Enough to sauce 6 servings of pasta
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cored, peeled, and seeded, or one 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
- Peperoncino (crushed red pepper)
- 10 fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and roughly torn
In a medium-size nonreactive saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes and their liquid. Bring to a boil and season lightly with salt and peperoncino. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk as they cook, until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves, if desired. About 5 minutes before the sauce is finished, stir in the basil. Taste the sauce and add more salt and peperoncino if necessary.
Note: If using fresh plum tomatoes, the extra virgin olive oil can be increased to 1/2 cup for optimal results.