A dish of pasta, a good deal of intense red and glossy tomato sauce, a generous sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top and some basil leaves, a charm to give that extra balsamic touch to turn a simple dish of pasta into a memorable dish of spaghetti, a dream come true for many foreigners passing through Italy. Someone will fall in love with the incredible food tasted in a hidden restaurant, someone with the white country roads, someone else with smiling deep brown eyes, another one with the magnificence of the ruins of ancient cultures, someone will eventually decide to stay. The others will go home bearing in their hearts a warm and happy feeling due most of the time to what they’ve seen or, more often, eaten and drunk.
Why foreign people are so fascinated by the Italian gastronomic culture, or rather, by the Italian food? Yes, let’s keep it simple, not grand theories and systems, but what will concretely be in the plate in front of their eyes, with that good smell that evokes many memories, all different but all equally comforting.
I have often asked this question: I found the answer a few weeks ago during a cooking class with some people from Los Angeles.
I was holding a class on fresh pasta making and I lost control of the situation, so following the enthusiasm we made ravioli with butter and sage, spinach and ricotta dumplings and a zucchini risotto. We had also some leftover fresh pasta, so we made some fresh tagliatelle, served with a tomato sauce made on the spot: just sweet and juicy tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil.
A gentleman approached me and told me that he really liked the tagliatelle, that he had never tasted anything so fresh, light, where you could recognize all the flavors. There I had the light.
Maybe foreign people appreciate Italian food so much for the freshness and quality of the ingredients, for a cooking procedure that respects the raw materials and enhances their quality. That’s why a dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce is so appealing, to foreign people and to Italians, too, to tell the truth.
I do not want to mention just stereotypes, or just glorify in all and for all the current panorama offered by the Italian food… but this is the answer that came to my mind, perhaps simplistic, but certainly related to the expression of bliss painted on the faces of many tourists in front of a dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce.
What do you think? Do you like Italian food? And if you do, what do you find of so fascinating in Italian food?
But now, eventually, the protagonist of this so fascinating Italian spirit, the pomarola, a tomato sauce made with many vegetables, the first recipe of a week completely dedicated to tomatoes!
Pomarola, the Italian tomato sauce
- 2,5 kilos of ripe tomatoes, about 2 kilos once deseeded
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 4 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- extra virgin olive oil
- about 2 tablespoons of coarse salt
- 2 sprig of fresh basil
- Cover the bottom of a large pot with extra virgin olive oil.
- Peel the onion and chop it finely with a knife, then add the onion into the pot and let it cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. It has to softens but pay attention not overcook or burn it.
- Stir in the finely chopped carrots and celery and cook for 10 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
- In the meantime, deseed the tomatoes, cut them into quarters and add them into the pot.
- Finally, add the salt and basil and cook over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring often.
- When the tomatoes are soft, turn off the heat and pour everything into a colander, collecting the remaining cooking water in a bowl.
- Purée the tomatoes with a vegetable mill, using the finest sieve, and collect the beautiful sauce in a pot. If it gets difficult to turn the mill, you can add a few tablespoons of the set aside cooking water to help you.
- Now check the pomarola: if it is still too liquid - it will depend on the tomatoes you chose - you can cook it again on high heath for about 5 minutes.
- Now the pomarola is ready... cook the pasta!
Other tomato sauces on the net and in my heart:
- grandma’s Rina tomato sauce, my best friend’s Laura grandmother, it was extraordinary good, and had a special ingredient that made it unique;
- Carolina’s mum tomato sauce, good and simple as only home-made sauces can be. Just like her, I use the trick of a piece of butter melted into the pasta to make it special;
- Paula’s sauce, made with 5 basic ingredients for an exceptional result.