Sugo – simple tomato pasta sauce

A few things I will never forget after spending a reasonable amount of time in Italy, ‘with Italians’ in a past life are the foundations of a good pasta ‘sauce'(or sugo in Italian). What I learnt was mostly from watching, given my degree of language skill was only basic.

The formula for an excellent sauce?

> Always shop for the locally sourced produce or grow your own (especially tomatoes)! One of the first memorable food markets I was introduced to in Rome many years ago was ‘Campo de’ Fiori’; literally meaning ‘Field of Flowers’ has historically been one of the longest running fresh vegetable and fish markets since 1869.

> A good Italian sauce is simplistic not complicated, always using few ingredients to enhance the flavours in each dish. Have you ever seen an Italian eating a pizza that resembles a cake? No, of course not…they enjoy a pizza with a few ingredients without dominating the base for example; tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil and its fabulous!

This authentic pasta sauce is as simple as it gets and it will be hard not to inhale it once ready! I have included a suggestion for children to make it more fun. The name ‘bird’s nest’ has been adopted from a friend who makes this for her children sometimes and I am doing the same for them tomorrow when they all come over for lunch. Please see bottom for guide on putting bird’s nests together. It freezes well too if you want to make the most of all the tomatoes out there right now.

Italians are quite finicky about pairing their sauce with the perfect pasta so to speak…but hey, I’m not Italian so I will break the rules occasionally to suit my family’s tastes.

Generally the rule of thumb is to match a heavy, chunky sauce with a short or chunky pasta like penne, rigatoni, fusilli or even gnocchi and with light, thin sauces, complement by using the longer clingy pastas like linguine, spaghetti, fettuccine etc.

Simple tomato pasta sauce with linguine

Ingredients

1.5kg or 3.5 pounds of very ripe tomatoes

1 teaspoon minced garlic (I love a little more, so I used 1.5 teaspoons)

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

1 Tablespoon olive oil for cooking

1 Tablespoon olive oil extra virgin cold pressed for drizzling at end

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Fresh linguine pasta

Method

1. Score a cross with a knife on the bottom of each tomato. Prepare a pot of boiling water and also chilled/iced water. Place each tomato into the pot of boiling water for a minute, and remove placing them into the iced water immediately. Once they have cooled a little, peel the skin off the tomatoes which should be easy. If they are not, you may need to pop them into the boiling water for a minute longer.

2. Quarter or halve the tomatoes; depending on whether you have bought a round or Roma variety and remove seeds with hands over a sieve and bowl so you are not losing any juice. Push as much juice from the pulp and seeds through the sieve as possible and set aside. Chop half the quantity of tomatoes up finely. Place the other half in a food processor with the oregano.

3. Using a heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add garlic to pot. It will only need a minute or two; do not brown or burn. Add tomatoes, salt and boil for 5-10 minutes. Simmer for 45 minutes or a bit longer until it reaches the desired consistency you like.

4. Prepare fresh linguine which should only take three minutes to cook in boiling water. Drain and arrange in dishes. Spoon in the ‘sugo’ with a few torn basil leaves on top, drizzle the extra virgin cold pressed olive oil and enjoy!

Sugo

Tomato pasta sauce

Additions:- If you would like a more intense flavour, a little pecorino cheese grated on top is delicious. If you love the basil flavour, process some basil leaves, parsley and extra virgin cold pressed olive oil together and drizzle on top.

Note: For bird’s nests, twirl and arrange the linguine in a nest like shape. Spoon some hot sauce into the nest and place some baby bocconcini balls on top. That way they will melt a little on the sauce and still resemble white eggs in a nest!

Children's bird's nest pasta

Children’s bird’s nest pasta

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My hump day dish…Pasta e broccoli

So it has been a long week, or couple of weeks I should say. On the good side there has been birthday celebrations, Father’s Day and more cars free day festivals. On the not so good side there has been the physically exhausting exercise of moving house. Ok, although we were only moving up two floors in the same building, I soon realised you can accumulate quite a few items in three months!

So I apologise especially to family and friends for not keeping you in the loop with our adventures, but finding some focused minutes or hours in the day to write has been a challenge…anyway back on track now.

When even making dinner sometimes is perhaps one of the last things I want to do after all I’ve packed into a day, this meal is easy to prepare and my go to dish takes minutes to prepare.  Before you know it you are sitting down to a satisfying meal and a cold crisp glass of wine!

My hump day pasta dish (serves 4). This recipe has been a favourite of mine for years. It is particularly good I feel when I am craving comfort food. Surprisingly my son likes it as well, perhaps he is a salt fiend too. This is inspired by the rustic Roman dishes I enjoyed while travelling around Italy (on a shoestring budget) in my early 20s. Broccoli is the hero here for green goodness!

Ingredients

1 medium head of broccoli cut into small florets, (I like using the centre of stalks sliced too).

350 gm of spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic

6 anchovies

1 tablespoon of salted capers (drained if in vinegar)

1 small red chilli (de-seeded and chopped finely)

1/2 cup of roasted breadcrumbs (can make a day ahead – takes 3-5 minutes under grill).

2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, preferably a high quality aged one as it is less acidic and has a more caramelised flavour.

1.5 Tablespoon of premium extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Handful of baby rocket leaves and/or parsley

Pecorino cheese and black pepper to taste – optional

Method

1. Place spaghetti into a large pot of boiling salted water on high heat. In the last four minutes throw in broccoli florets.

2. In a medium frypan, heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO (not cold pressed) and crushed garlic cloves on a medium heat. You do not want to brown the garlic, just heat for 1-2 minutes till fragrant. Add anchovies, capers and chilli for another minute or two.

3. Add balsamic vinegar, and you should see a slightly thicker caramelised consistency.

4. Mix in the breadcrumbs for another minute or so on heat and remove.

5. Drain your pasta, then in the same pot you boiled the pasta, use premium extra virgin olive oil to coat bottom and toss spaghetti, broccoli, breadcrumb mixture and lemon juice together.

6. Add rocket leaves or parsley for extra texture, pecorino and black pepper and serve.

Pour your glass of wine and enjoy!