You Can Never Have Too Many Pasta Sauces
Charles and I always enjoy having dinner at the home of our friends Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca, who are both great cooks. Here is a link to a post I wrote a while back about a dinner at their house: http://michelescicolone.com/dinner-commissario-montalbano/.
They’ve just written a mini ecookbook, featuring 10 of their recipes for tomato-based pasta sauces. They tell interesting stories in their headnotes, and Tom provides wine recommendations for each dish. Here’s an example:
Farfalle with Calabrian Tomato Sauce
Copyright © 2012 Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca
What makes a dish Calabrian? In Italy, that’s a no-brainer: “peperoncino rosso piccante,” or “hot red peppers,” used liberally. It must be the bracing mountain air and the rugged countryside that makes Calabrians so fond of what they call “diavolillo,” or “little devil.” Though Calabria is far in Italy’s south, a lot of it is upland, and we guess it takes a lot of hot red pepper to ward off the night’s chill. At least that’s the best explanation we can come up with for this region’s conspicuous fondness for peppery dishes. We’ve moderated that tendency somewhat in this tasty recipe, but if you want the heavy-caliber experience, by all means add more peperoncino.
Whenever we’re traveling anywhere in Italy from Rome to Sicily, we take the opportunity to restock our supply of these hot peppers, which keep very well in the refrigerator for months. Just one of them, seethed briefly in olive oil, gives an intriguing lift to many sauces. However, it’s important to remember to remove the little devil before serving the dish, lest one unsuspecting diner bite into a morsel of heat that sizzles the tonsils.
This recipe is as simple as our rigatoni with mushroom sauce. The zinginess of dried hot red pepper is further enriched by the combination with pancetta, the air-cured but unsmoked bacon that’s widely used throughout central and southern Italy as a starting point for pasta sauces. Different regions cure it slightly differently: It may be almost entirely unspiced or completely covered with crushed black pepper. Guess which kind Calabria prefers.
Wine: The regionally correct choice would be Ciro (Librandi makes a good one), but Ciro is hard to find here. Primitivo would work, as would a fruity Zinfandel or even a Syrah. Or you could go completely against the grain and serve a sprightly white wine with this dish — maybe a Falanghina or a top-quality Frascati, like Fontana Candida’s Luna Mater.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 ounces chopped pancetta
2 pounds plum tomatoes, puréed in a food mill or processor
1 dried peperoncino rosso (or substitute 1 pinch crushed red pepper)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pound imported Italian farfalle
Freshly grated pecorino romano (optional)
Heat the olive oil over low heat in a nonreactive skillet. Add the onion and pancetta and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion is soft and the pancetta has released its fat. Don’t let the onion brown or the pancetta crisp. Add the puréed tomatoes and the peperoncino. Stir thoroughly and cook on a simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens nicely. Remove the peperoncino and stir in the basil and salt to taste.
Bring a large pot of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain in a colander, transfer to a warmed serving bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve at once, passing the grated cheese at the table for those who like it.
“Not the Same Old Spaghetti Sauce,” published by Hang Time Press, is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, and iTunes for $2.99. For more info about Diane and Tom, check out their very entertaining websites at http://dianescookbooks.wordpress.com/ and http://ubriaco.wordpress.com/.