Papa is my host mom’s father. The children call him Nonno (grandpa) but he introduced himself to me as Papa so that’s what I call him. He is a kind man and a wonderful cook. He takes care of me and always makes sure I am well fed. Since the children are skiing in the Alps this week, I won’t go to Nonna’s house for lunch as usual. So, he came over to teach me how to make the most delicious pasta sauce. Whenever I try to make marinara at home, it never seems to taste very flavorful; so, I was eager to learn from Papa.
I was surprised to see that we were using only a few ingredients: olive oil, shallot, sage, rosemary, and tomato sauce. Papa minced half of the shallot and added it to a saute pan with heated olive oil. Then, he went out to his garden and picked sage and rosemary. When the shallot was transparent, he threw the herbs into the pan. Next, he added some of the tomato sauce which he said he prepared during the summer when all of his tomatoes were ripe. Yes, even his tomato sauce was homemade from tomatoes that he grew himself!
He finished his sauce with a dash of salt to taste and that was it. So simple yet so delicious! The smell was out of this world incredible. The flavor was light and delicate yet bursting with flavor. It really is the best marinara sauce I have ever tasted. I think it’s because the ingredients were all fresh and locally grown. When you start with good ingredients, you don’t have to do much to make them taste divine.
I cooked my brown rice pasta per his directions. He was adamant that the pasta should be prepared “al denté” because the pasta would be added to the sauce where it would continue to cook. This is known as “al forno” or twice cooked. Once the pasta was cooked just right, I mixed it into the sauce until every noodle was covered.
And yes, presentation matters too! In Italy, the table is always set with a table cloth and presented nicely. As a result, the food always looks as delicious as it tastes.
- ½ shallot, minced
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 sage leaves, torn
- 1 sprig of rosemary, minced
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- Salt, to taste
- Rice spaghetti, cooked al dente
- Heat olive oil in a small saute pan.
- Add shallots and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.
- Sprinkle in herbs and add the tomato sauce.
- Add salt to taste.
- Simmer sauce for about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water until al dente.
- Drain pasta and add to the saute pan.
- Mix with the sauce and heat until hot.
- Buon appetito!
Lunch is always eaten in courses and in the same order. First, you eat your starch; in this case, Pasta di Papa. Then, you can have vegetables and meat or fish (if desired), and after that you eat salad.
Salad is usually just a mixture of lettuce which is topped with olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar and a touch of salt. Again, it’s so simple but so delicious because they use the best oil and vinegar. Lastly, a variety of fruits are offered as well as nuts to crack. Here, we had roasted chestnuts that we picked in the forest a few weeks ago.
Bread is also offered. It is placed on the table and you are expected to grab what you desire. As a gluten-free option, I eat brown rice biscuits. I’m certain they are not as delicious as actual bread but I enjoy them topped with olive oil and a dash of salt.
Wine and sparkling water are the main beverages offered at lunch. At first, I did not drink it because I am not used to consuming alcohol so early in the day. However, I learned that it is only 5% alcohol and you drink it in moderation so now I join in on the fun! As a digetif, espresso is offered after the meal. Once you start drinking espresso shots after lunch, you won’t want to go without. It aids in digestion and combats food coma. Let’s just say, I’m a fan!
And there you have it, a simple meal made with local foods freshly picked from the garden. Since all of the tastes are included at lunch, you leave the table feeling satisfied. Also, Italians do not snack much. So, this large lunch tides you over until dinner. I think that is one of the many reasons why, on average, Italians seems to be in good health.
Sending you LOVE and PEACE without grease!
Ciao, The Glisten Girls