Pasta e piselli, pasta and peas! It was chilly and rainy for a few days this past week, a welcome change from the unending heat and humidity this summer. I was pining for a warm dish that was quick and easy to prepare. Yours truly had been trying for months to duplicate a childhood dish with little success until last week. I had been asking some Italian neighbors for their family recipes, and of course checking the internet for ideas. Every recipe I tried was blah, off-tasting, pasty, and definitely not what I was aiming for.
So I was delighted when my own family came through! A simple question to cousin Mary and sister-in-law Chris unearthed an old family recipe from Aunt Mary and Aunt Dora that turned out simply delectable. Why did I not think to look in my own backyard?
The result was a fresh, sweet, thick, tomato sauce, with tender spring peas that made tiny little explosions in my mouth. Lightly seasoned, no garlic or herbs, only onion, a truly light touch. That is the key, by the way, to cooking tomato sauce with vegetables. Garlic, basil or oregano or other strong tasting herbs tends to interfere with the sweet, fresh taste of the vegetables.
This is a very easy dish and very child friendly.
PASTA E PISELLI
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 28 ounce can crushed tomato sauce, Tuttorosso is best
1 box of frozen early peas, best quality (I am not up to shelling peas, yet!)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta of your choice
Grated cheese, pecorino romano works well.
Saute, or "sweat" the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Do not brown. Pour in tomato sauce and peas, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 20 minutes or so on a medium low flame until the sauce thickens. Pour it over hot pasta, sprinkle with grated cheese.
I had the pleasure of attending a cooking demonstration at the New York Botanical Gardens on Thursday, August 26. The Executive Chef, Jeremy Bearman, at Rouge Tomate (www.rougetomatenyc.com) on 60th St. in Manhattan, demonstrated a completely authentic version of Sicilian Caponata, which is as ubiquitous in a Sicilian restaurant as salsa is in a Mexican restaurant. It consists of eggplant as well as a variety of sweet and savory ingredients in a kind of homemade catsup, which is really a savory tomato paste. I will attempt this recipe and report on it next week. There is an interesting technique to it, and I learned some tips that I will pass on to you.
In the upcoming weeks, I plan to write about other authentic Italian and Sicilian home recipes. You will not find these in any cookbook! I will also do an update on ice wine, which fascinates me for some reason. I have been sampling other varieties and found out some more interesting information.
A final word: Please don't mourn the end of summer. Let that big harvest moon hanging in the sky remind you that right now, Farmer's Markets are overflowing with fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits at their peak of perfection!