Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ava loves tomato sauce

Ava, obviously, loves Grandpa Pete's tomato sauce. Her favorite is just pure tomato sauce with, probably, farfalle, although she also likes it with penne. Her older sister, Zoe, is a touch more sophisticated, and her favorite (see previous post) is Grandpa Pete's Best Bolognese Sauce ever.

This is the season, of course, for simple, pure, fresh tomato sauce, and this presentation of pasta and sauce did not last long in Ava's dish.

The sauce is so simple to make. We get very lovely vine-ripened tomatoes at the local farmer's Market. Italian Romas are the best option.
For two pounds of tomatoes: wash them, dry, cut off any edges, and then cut them in halves or quarters.

In a saute pan large enough to hold the tomatoes, heat one-third cup of olive oil over medium heat. Finely chop five garlic cloves and add them to the oil. Cook for about fifteen seconds, letting the garlic just start to sizzle, and then add the tomatoes. Stir. Add a teaspoon or two or salt (two) and a teaspoon of sugar.

Cook, uncovered, slowly, over low/medium heat for five minutes. Should have strong simmer.Take a half cup of fresh basil (we are fortunate to have lots of basil in our garden) and tear the leaves into small pieces. Add the basil to the tomatoes and stir. If you would like, add a sprig of fresh rosemary and maybe a tablespoon of fresh oregano.

Cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should be soft, but still holding their shape.

Let cool, run through a food mill -- medium is good, but if you want really pure, minus all seeds, run it through medium and then fine.

Put back in saute pan, bring to a boil, and turn off. Taste for salt. Put it on your favorite pasta (farfalle is Ava's). Top with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and some basil leaves for decoration. Serve very hot.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

comfort food

It has been a while since I got to my blog: face surgery, followed by six weeks of radiation. Taste buds coming back! After several weeks of soups and milkshakes, it was time for pasta: and also for comfort food. My choice: spaghetti carbonara!

I know this is a Roman dish, but I also always remember going to a small trattoria a "calle" or so from the Rialto Bridge in Venice, appropriately named Trattoria Carbonara -- I don't believe it exists any longer -- where I feasting on this satisfying dish was an every-trip-to-Venice routine

Carbonara is part of the great Roman pasta triumvirate of "cacio e pepe" and "alla gricia", all simply prepared, flavor-filled pasta dishes (frequently using a more egg-yolk-heavy pasta). For these great recipes, see: -- and click on pasta and spaghetti.


  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • two tablespoons butter
  • four ounces guanciale (preferred), pancetta or bacon
  • three small cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • one-third cup dry white wine
  • one large egg
  • three egg yolks
  • two tablespoons Pecorino Romano
  • six tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • tablespoon or two chopped parsley
  • salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
  • one pound spaghetti

Cut the guanciale (pancetta or bacon) into roughly one-quarter inch long thin strips.

Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over medium heat. This pan should be big enough to eventually hold and mix the spaghetti. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to sizzle. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned.

Add the wine and cook for about two minutes more, until the alcohol smell has disappeared. Set aside.

In a large bowl, into which you will eventually put the cooked spaghetti, put in the egg yolks and the whole egg. Stir with a fork until they are well mixed. Add the two cheeses and the parsley, salt and pepper. Stir.

Heat 4-5 quarts of cold water to a raging boil. Add two tablespoons of salt, drop in the pasta, stir regularly, and cook until al dente. (test by tasting!) Set aside a cup of pasta water and drain.

Add the cooked pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss it gently until well mixed and the strands are thoroughly coated. Quickly reheat the pancetta for a minute or so. Add the pasta and egg mixture to the heated pancetta pan. If too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to keep moist. Cover and heat under high heat for a minute. Should be steaming.

Serve immediately, adding the chopped parsley, and with some more parmesan on the side.

Note: if halving this recipe, use one egg and one egg yolk.