I took a break from making our house a home and spent the afternoon with our wonderful landlords while Bobby was at work today. It was during lunchtime so I bet you can guess what we did…! Yep, we cooked. I learned how to make authentic Italian spaghetti sauce. Now this wasn’t the whole “simmer all day meat sauce” that you see in the movies, this was a simple, light version that is typically made for lunch. It consisted of fresh Pomodoro di Pachino (a tomato that is slightly bigger than Cherry tomatoes and is from the southeast coast of Sicily), Basilico (Basil) and I don’t mean bought from the store or out of a spice jar…she literally picked the leaves straight off of the plant in her kitchen, Aglio (garlic), Peperoncino (Red pepper, she used the powdered kind) and of course, Olive Oil. Now, I guarantee once you read how it is made you will say to yourself “Why would anyone open a can of Ragu or Prego when it’s that simple?” You start off by covering the entire bottom of a skillet with Olive Oil (the “good kind” not Great Value or Food Lion brand…according to Marika small bottle of decent Olive Oil should cost at least 6 euro or roughly $8)…crack a few pieces of fresh garlic off and add it to the pan on a low heat. From there all you need to do is add the whole tomatoes, a few dashes of salt and a few dashes of red pepper…you cover and let this simmer until the tomatoes are soft, add a handful of fresh basil leaves, stir, and literally smash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon… serve over spaghetti noodles (cooked al dente of course) and top with another pinch of fresh basil. The entire dish took 20 minutes from start to finish.
I retract my statement before that the best pasta dish I have had thus far was my Gamberetti at Casa Bianca because THIS hands down was my favorite. Marika even stated that I was the first American she’s met that eats spaghetti the “correct Italian way.” GO ME! I was meant to live here! haha.
Speaking of Italian ways- a few tid bits I learned during lunch.
1. It is considered rude to cut your spaghetti….it is even worse to twirl your spaghetti with a spoon underneath.
2. Not only is it rude to have your elbows on the table (that’s even a no no in America), it is also rude to lean your forearms against the table…NO TOUCHING what so ever!
3. We break (or cut) our bread over/on a plate… again, a no no. In Italy (most) tables have table cloths and you are suppose to break/cut your bread over/on the table cloth…
4. I actually learned this one the first time we had lunch with them.. when you are drinking and give a toast, you do not cross glasses.
Lunch was also served with cheese slices, salame (salami), and grissini (pencil sized, dry, crispy bread sticks). Now one of my favorite pastimes with my father is to sit around (specifically around Christmas time) and eat “salami, cheese and crackers” while watching tv ….this is nothing like that! The salami here is dry, aged sausage that has been blended with a spice mix and pork fat, and is typically kept on the counter, wrapped in white butcher paper. It is very salty and hard to bite apart, but oh so good! The texture, the smell, the color…everything about it is a world of difference compared to the Hillshire farms “summer sausage” that I am use to eating. The cheese is also very different (in a good way). Honestly, I have no idea what two types of cheeses were on the counter, but they were both delicious!
I also had a salad that consisted of only green leaves with their roots still attached. Marika told me the name of it, unfortunately I couldn’t remember it if my life depended on it! It too was good..but then again I love “leafy” greens..I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce in my salad. You’d think having the small roots still attached would keep one from eating it, but not this girl… my motto is “try everything once, the good things twice.”
We finished off lunch with fresh sliced strawberries that were topped with (brown) sugar and drizzled with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Yeah you read it right…lemon juice on top of strawberries. It may just be my new favorite warm weather “snack.” I told you..I’ll try anything once! (You should too!)
I just hate Bobby missed out on this experience. At least now he can be my guinea pig at home when I try this out for myself! Marika already has an ongoing list of meals she wants me to try out! Be prepared to have one (or two) if you are planning on visiting us!
Fino alla prossima volta..