The August heatwave brought eventually some time for resting, for sleeping in a shaded room in the afternoon, for a weekend in the mountains foraging wild raspberries and blueberries, for personal projects and reflections and lazy dinners cooked by my mum, where I was just sharing leftovers from classes. It brought also an incredible surprise. We’ve been nominated for the Saveur Blog Awards in the category Most-Inspired Weeknight Dinners.
I received an e-mail from the Saveur team while spending an afternoon with part of my family in Todi and I started screaming, trying to explain in between laughter and excitement how important this Award is for us.
The first Saveur Blog Award dates back to 2010. Since then, every year I’ve been looking to the finalists in each category as a source of inspiration, secretly hoping to be among the shortlisted bloggers one day. And every year I learnt a lot about myself, about curiosity and passion, about resilience and the beauty of a dream which keeps you going, no matter what.
So 2017 has been the year, when I finally read the name of our blog, Juls’ Kitchen, among the finalists, in the category that best reflects the spirit of this blog: homey, daily and reliable recipes which make a difference and give an authentic Italian twist to your weeknight meals.
So thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting us through this, for believing in our dream, it means the world for us and makes us want to give you yet more ideas to add an Italian accent to your weeknight meals.
This is why I’m going to share this pasta which I made with some ingredients from the pantry when I had some friends over from dinner and it was way too hot to plan a proper meal. A garlicky tomato sauce, a handful of pitted olives to stir in some bitterness and strips of browned guanciale to coat a simple bowl of pasta, better if whole wheat. All you need is a sprinkling of cheese, a chair and a fork to call this a meal.
Let’s talk about the ingredients
In my recipe I used not the normal garlic, but a local variety which is known as aglione della Val di Chiana. If you have tried my recipe for pici you might have already stumbled upon this word, aglione, which literally means big garlic. Until a few months ago I thought that the sauce was called aglione because it was made with an outrageous quantity of garlic, then I discovered that it took its name from this local variety, which is as big as a fist with just three cloves, each the size of an apricot! It has the mildest flavour, delicate and aromatic.
So if you can’t use aglione, choose the mildest garlic you can put your hands on and add it accordingly to your likings. This sauce is meant to be delicate, but with a distinct garlic flavour.
Tomatoes must be ripe and flavourful. As you can see the ingredient list is minimal, so you should choose the best you can afford or find. If it is not the season for fresh sun-ripened tomatoes, a jar of good quality peeled tomatoes would do. I normally use them in winter, and the result is equally vibrant.
I recently fell in love with the delicate leccino olives, cultivated in Tuscany at least since the Medieval times. Substitute them with taggiasche olives from Liguria or even Kalamata from Greece, or opt for a local variety which you like.
The last peculiar ingredient I used is my butcher’s guanciale, the cured cheek of the pork, the same cut you would use for a Roman amatriciana or carbonara. I like the mellow and creamy fat which melts in the pan, adding a kick of flavour to the tomato sauce. You can substitute it with pancetta, or even bacon, but that would slightly change the final result: the guanciale, just like the pancetta, are cured with salt and black pepper, not smoked.
Glass jars WECK mold shape 290 ml – MCM Emballages Weck Distributor
The easiest tomato sauce
I do not fry the minced garlic in olive oil before adding the tomatoes, as you would do in a traditional garlicky tomato sauce. I cook everything together, adding the salt at the beginning so that it can extract the water from the tomatoes and cook them down. Do it for a diet purpose, as you want to avoid fried olive oil, do it for a flavour purpose, as you prefer a fresher tomato sauce, or do it to save up time, but try it and this will become your go-to tomato sauce recipe.
- 1,5 kg of ripe tomatoes
- 1 head of garlic
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- Rinse and chop the tomatoes, then collect them in a medium pot. Add the peeled cloves of garlic, the salt and the extra virgin olive oil.
- Cook on low heat with a lid for about one hour, until the tomatoes are collapsing in a sauce and the garlic can be mashed with a fork.
- Blend everything with an immersion blender and adjust with salt, if needed.
Pasta with tomato sauce, guanciale and olives
You can use this sauce to season spaghetti or pici, you can bottle it up for the winter, add seasonal vegetables for a richer and more filling main course, or add guanciale and olives for a rich pasta which could be a meal on its own followed by a serving of vegetables, just like these stewed French beans or this fresh salad.
- 320 g of dry pasta (paccheri, mezze maniche, penne…)
- 1 pint of the easiest tomato sauce
- 100 g of guanciale, cured cheek pork (you can use pancetta instead)
- 3 heaping tablespoons of pitted leccino olives (or taggiasche, or Kalamata)
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino to serve
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add enough salt, then the pasta. Stir and cook according to the packaging instructions.
- In the meantime, heat a heavy bottomed non-stick pan on medium heat and cut the guanciale in cubes. Cook the guanciale on medium-low heat, stirring it often with a wooden spoon until the fat has melted and it is golden brown.
- Pour in the tomato sauce, be careful as it will tend to splash everywhere (true story). Add also the olives, stir and keep aside.
- Drain the pasta al dente, toss it into the pan to coat evenly with the sauce and serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese.
Vote for the Saveur Blog Awards
You brought us up to the finals, now we’d need your support for the the last step! We are humbled to be in such an incredible company, among talented friends and bloggers. Now it is up to you, again, to vote for your favourite bloggers. As the Saveur Team suggests, vote early and often, as you can vote multiple times in each category through September 6th. You can do it here!
In the meantime, we’ll keep adding more and more ideas for your weeknight meals with an Italian twist!