Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Elena’s Tomato Sauce with Salt Pork


The Appian Way - Early Childhood Homesite
(Sugo de Pomodori e Guanciale)  This is my favorite pasta or lasagna sauce and it is used for many dishes including spaghetti, lasagna, canneloni and manicotti. This is Elena Mantini’s recipe, my good friend who lives with her family along the Appian Way in Quaromiglio just outside of Rome. Now in her 80’s and still going strong. One of the best Italian cooks I know, Elena and her daughter Rosanna help me learn to cook when I was 12. The suauce is one of the finest because it uses the best ingredients. The contibution that salt pork or guanciale makes is a sweetness and improve mouth feel.

Sauce is for a pound of pasta
½ Diced Spanish onion
¼ cup each of minced carrot and minced celery4
3 Tablespoons of best olive oil
4 Tablespoons of double strength tomato paste
¼ Pound chopped guanciale2 or salt pork
¾ Pound of fresh seeded, peeled, ripe San Marzano tomatoes1, chopped
2 Cloves of crushed garlic finely minced
Crushed red pepper or powdered chili5
Small pinch of marjoram or fresh marjoram
Small pinch of basil or fresh basil, chopped
Small pinch of shopped rosemary or fresh chopped rose­mary
Season with black pepper and salt

Garnish with finely chopped parsley, a dollop of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or peccorino Romano cheese.

Sauté onion, celery and carrot and crushed red pepper in olive oil with pork product until onions are translucent. Add garlic and stir. After just 1 minute, add tomato paste and a tablespoon water. Cook on high heat while stirring constantly to allow the tomato paste to caramelize somewhat before adding anything else. This gives the tomato sauce hundreds of different flavor compounds. Now add tomatoes and the rest of the spices. Cook covered thirty minutes on medium low stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove lid and cook on very low to reduce liquid. Correct seasoning with fresh ground black pepper. Serve over very hot pasta and garnish.

Garnish includes basil and a combination of both and Pecorino Romano for the Parmigiano Reggiano graded cheese.

Pasta choices I favor include spaghetti, fettuccine, vermicelli, mostaccioli (large penne), rigatoni (tubes), penne rigate (diagonally cut cylinders with ridges), bucatini (small tubes) and conchiglie (shells). Elena always served just spa­ghetti.                                                                                                   

Note:
1.        The San Marzano is an heirloom plum tomato with meaty insides and intense flavor. It contains a ton of sugars, acids and just the right about of pectin to make the worlds richest and most delicious sauces. Use only authentic Italian DOP certified.  (see markings below) These are expensive, about 20 cents per ounce.
2.        Guanciale has become quite popular and increasingly more available outside of Italy. Guanciale is the cured meat from the jowl (“guan­cia” in Italian) of the pig or sometimes boar. The meat is cured with salt, pepper, hot pepper and sometimes sugar for a month. After hanging for another month, the Guanciale is ready to be consumed. Guanciale is a fundamental flavor for many of the dishes of the Lazio region (Roman food) especially sauces including Amatriciana, and Carbonara. Guanciale replaces pancetta in any recipe for a bolder fla­vor. See page   for Homemade guanciale.
3.        This caramelization is a Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between an amino acid and food sugars.) The temperature necessarily needs to be above 305 F and water retards this reaction. In Italian, soffriggere means to brown so the ingredients are also referred to as a soffritto.
4.        The combination of onions, carrots, and celery are referred to is America as the “aromatic vegetables” and as a mirepoix by the French.
5.     Chilies can add quite a lot of flavor and if you know you way around these and want the flavor, by all means use a combination of chille powders. Mapuche merkén, aji amarillo are good choice to add a bit more flavor. Do not over do it.
Marking on Real DOP Tomatoes

Elena Mantini - Master Chef

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