Pasta: That’s Amore!

A spicy, rich tomato sauce is the secret. Recipes cover one pound of dry pasta.

By Lori Ross, Southern Boating February 2020

I confess to a lifetime pasta passion for which I readily blame my loving mother. As a newlywed, she and my dad lived in an apartment across the hall from an Italian woman recently emigrated from Calabria, Italy, who taught my mom how to make the wonderful, spicy, rich tomato sauce she served over spaghetti throughout my childhood. This sauce with homemade meatballs became a weekly family treat, one which my friends would clamor for invitations to my house, as they knew my mother would never tolerate canned Chef Boyardee on the premises. I learned to make that same spicy sauce and experimented with variations as my palate expanded.

When Jim and I had our first boat in Long Island Sound more than 30 years ago, pasta was part of our regular rotation on cruises. It was cheap, tasty, filling, easy to store and cook at anchor or even make ahead and bake while underway. Later, as we started cruising further afield and distance racing, pasta became an essential emergency ration, comfort food for cold and wet passages, and a favorite of the hungry crew. Cooler weather calls for warm filling dishes and with so many types of pasta available (imported, gluten-free, whole grain), there are ample ways to prepare it. All recipes top one pound of dry pasta.

My Mother’s Tomato Sauce
3 Tbsp. oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped sweet pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or ½ tsp. garlic powder
One 6 oz. can tomato paste
One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated
Sauté onion, pepper, and garlic gently in oil. Add tomato paste and sauté a few minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 25-35 minutes. Toss with pasta and pass the grated Parmesan cheese.

Sauce Variations:

Amatriciana – Sauté 7 oz. chopped bacon or pancetta with the onion and garlic, then proceed with Mother’s sauce, omitting tomato paste and sweet pepper and adding ½ tsp. black pepper.

Puttanesca – Sauté 3 cloves minced garlic, 3 chopped anchovies, 1 cup pitted calamata olives, and 4 Tbsp. capers in 2 Tbsp. oil and proceed with recipe for Mother’s sauce.

Bolognese – Sauté 1 lb. ground meat (pork, veal, or beef, or a mixture) and ½ lb. chopped bacon or pancetta in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until browned. Proceed with Mother’s sauce recipe omitting crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper and instead adding 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of milk. Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until thickened, take off heat, and stir in 2 Tbsp. butter and serve.

Uncooked Fresh Tomato Sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cup olive oil
4 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
4 chopped anchovies
½ cup pitted calamata olives
3 Tbsp. capers
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and let marinate at room temperature for at least one hour. Cook pasta, drain, and toss with sauce. Serve at room temperature.

One Pot Pasta
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp. oil
4½ cups water
½ tsp. each salt and dried basil
1 lb. thin spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients, except cheese, in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring and turning pasta frequently until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

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