Back in early June we attended a Blogger event put on by Larry of Big Dudes Eclectic Ramblings. The theme was Italian. We dined waterside and pretended that we were on the Amalfi Coast. Larry loaned me one of his Italian Cookbooks to take home so that I could test some recipes. I almost didn’t want to return it to him. The cookbook is Mamma Agata: Traditional Italian Recipes of a Family that Cooks with Love and Passion in a Simple Genuine Way. I loved the cookbook for many reasons. The recipes are simple. There are many tricks revealed to make your food delicious and the illustrations are numerous and beautiful.
Mamma Agata is an institution on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. She has cooked for many famous people including Humphrey Bogart, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy. In recent years Pierce Brosnan has found the delights of Mamma Agata’s simple but delicious Italian food. As have thousands of others who have attended her fabulous cooking school. Together, with her daughter Chiara and son-in-law Gennaro, they will spend a day with you at their breathtaking villa teaching you how to cook true Italian food and pairing it with just the right wine.
I decided to try this recipe using sausage and peppers and homemade tomato sauce because the farm stand that I visit is just now getting in local peppers and tomatoes. Using the freshest ingredients possible really does make a difference on your finished plate. One of the tips that Mamma Agata offers when making her fresh tomato sauce is to start with a pan off of the heat. Add the olive oil, garlic and basil all at once and then put it on the heat. As it heats, the oils from the garlic are released and they along with the basil infuse the oil with their essence.
Topped with shards of Parmesan, this really was one of the best pasta dishes that I have ever made. If you want this cookbook it is probably best to go to Mamma Agata’s website to order it. She ships worldwide and your copy will be signed. When I tried to order it on Amazon the book prices started at $170.00. What is up with that? By the way, Larry made this dish also. You can find his post about it here.
PAPPARDELLE CON PEPERONI E BALSICCA (SAUSAGE AND RED PEPPER PASTA)
1/2 lb. Pappardelle Pasta
2 1/4 lbs. of red and yellow sweet bell peppers
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red or white onion, chopped
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
2 lbs fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered (I used only 1 pint)
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 pinches Sea salt
1 cup Mamma Agata’s Tomato Sauce (See Below)
Prepare Mamma Agata’s Tomato Sauce
Wash the peppers and remove the stems. Cut each pepper in half and remove and discard the seeds from inside the peppers. Slice the peppers lenghwise, but not too thin and not to thick.
Saute the peppers in peanut oil for ten to fifteen minutes until soft. This makes them easier to digest and also brings out the flavor. Once the peppers are cooked, place them on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
Wipe out the pan and add the butter and olive oil to it. Once melted add the chopped onion and cook until golden brown. Remove the onion to a small bowl. Add the sausage to the pan and cook and sear on all sides. When nicely browned return the onion to the pan, prick the sausage all over to release the juices and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the peppers to the pan, lifting the sausage so that it is sitting on top of them. Add the cherry tomatoes, torn basil leaves, salt and the tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook the mixture for 30 minutes. When done remove the sausage and cut it into rounds and return to the sauce.
Cook the pasta according to package directions to just the al dente stage. Drain and add it to the pan with the sauce and cook gently for about 2 minutes to marry the flavors. Serve in bowls topped with shaved Parmesan.
MAMMA AGATA’S TOMATO SAUCE
1 quart of vine-ripened roma tomatoes, pureed
10 fresh cherry tomatoes
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic
3 fresh basil leaves
Mamma Agata’s Secret
The Roma tomatoes used to make this sauce should be vine-ripened so they are sweet. Sweet tomatoes are the key ingredient in many Italian dishes. If the tomatoes are not ripe and sweet, we recommend adding a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the sauce.
Add the olive oil, garlic and basil to a large saucepan. NOTE: When you add the olive oil, garlic and basil to the pan, do so all at the same time. Do not heat the oil first, then add the garlic and basil to the pan, but rather place all three ingredients into the pan at room temperature and then heat the pan.
Heat the ingredients over a high flame to release the natural oils contained in the fresh garlic, greatly enhancing the flavors of the tomato sauce. Be careful not to allow the garlic to burn or the oil to smoke. If this happens, you must throw it out and start over. The garlic and oil should only be on the high flame for one to two minutes before proceeding to the next step.
When the temperature of the oil begins to rise, add the tomato puree and fresh vine-ripened cherry tomatoes to the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself or let the oil or tomatoes splash on you. You should hear a nice sizzling sound and soon you’ll enjoy a wonderful aroma from the fragrant ingredients releasing the oils and combining. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook gently for 30 to 45 minutes. MY NOTE: My sauce was a little thin so I added about 1/2 of a jar of a purchased spaghetti sauce (Rao’s Marinara Sauce).