As I stated some months ago, I have wanted to delve deeper into the world of Italian cuisine. As my first step, I went straight to the American icon of Italian cooking—Marcella Hazan. My, oh, my. What a woman! An Italian immigrant, she taught cooking lessons in the kitchen of her apartment. She later went on to teach at many cooking schools and write several cookbooks (for details of her career, check here http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/4331/Marcella_Hazan/index.aspx or here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan.)
I chose Essentials of Italian Cooking, published in 1992, as my starting book. And I’m still stuck on it. The book is actually a compilation of two of Marcella’s earlier books, Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking. It is wonderful. Beautiful. Inspiring. I read it like a novel. Marcella describes the major components of Italian cooking in simple yet elegant prose, and provides regional culinary history as well as recipes. I have a lot more work to do with it; I’m sure there will be a lot more posts pertaining to Marcella and me.
But today, I present to you three pasta sauces. The first one I’d like to share was the least spectacular of the three, “aio e oio” or Roman garlic and oil sauce. A terribly simple sauce, it has just garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes as ingredients. The heated through combination coats the spaghetti just so, and the whole is a delightfully piquant, salty delight. Delightful as it was, it wasn’t particularly thrilling. Good, but not wonderful. The best part about it, honestly, was that it was nice and quick and uses ingredients that I always have on hand.
The second sauce I want to share with you is actually the one I’ve made most recently—in fact, I’ll be finishing up the leftovers tonight! A tomato sauce with San Marzano canned whole tomatoes, sautéed vegetables and olive oil. This is a hearty sauce, with a blunt taste and simple veggies (carrots, celery, and onion). It is actually a nice choice for winter as well, because it’s a little on the heavy side and warms you up. It also has a teasing taste of sunshine and summer from the tomatoes that’s just the thing in the middle of dark and dreary February.
I am the biggest fan of this last sauce: tomato sauce with garlic and basil. Yet another charmingly simple recipe, this sauce is, hand’s down, one of the more amazing things I’ve ever cooked for myself. The taste is the perfect blend of salt, pungent canned tomatoes (though I can’t wait to try it with fresh), and the soft and subtle sweetness of the basil. It was phenomenal. I was incredibly surprised by the depth of the taste of such a simple dish! The flavors were clean, the pasta was al dente, and the entire contents came together into a sublime whole.