The first thing I noticed about the pasta dishes in Italy is that they were pure, perfect and astonishingly simple. I found there was never too much of this and too little of that, when I ate fettuccine with Portobello Mushrooms (and it was often) I definitely savored with much clarity the mushroom’s earthiness, they were the star of the dish and not bulldozed off the plate by the use of too much butter, herbs and spices.
Most of the pasta sauces I had in Italy consisted of two or three ingredients. The pasta was served in small portions, elegant and bursting with the profundity of the flavors used and always served before the main course. Yet, some pasta dishes from southern Italy were more elaborate and they included all kinds of fun ingredients such as raisins and currants, and many were topped with pine nuts, almonds and pistachios. I love the idea of topping a pasta dish off with nuts and using all kinds of different ingredients in a sauce, however I fell madly in love with the idea of using only a few ingredients when making a pasta sauce.
As some of you know I am staying with my parents this summer, and after taking a ride to Western Massachusetts today (after we devoured the fruit torte I made them for breakfast) to see the small town my parents lived almost fifty-eight years ago when my father landed his first teaching job after college; we rode by their old apartment, and the brick school house he taught and my mother, (no joke) sang The Way We Were, and Dad and I shed a few tears because my mother is a lousy singer. They talked about the old days, and laughed and fought and because they both behaved fairly well, I bought them both a Happy Meal at McDonalds and promised them a nice meal later that evening.
On the stove, as I write this blog, the two love birds are in the other room arguing about what program they want to watch on TV and on the stove across from me is something I learned to make in Italy, pasta and fresh peas; simple tasty and satisfying.
This is how to do it: Cut one large onion into strips and sautéed in plenty of olive oil with a dash of black pepper, salt and a half teaspoon of dry sweet basil. Cook until the onions are translucent and add a 28 oz. can of ground peeled tomatoes, two chopped garlic cloves, half cup of water and simmer for 30 minutes.
Boil a pound of pasta (in Italy the family I was with used Ditaloni but I don’t feel like running to the store so I am breaking up linguini which I am sure is some sort of awful sin in Italy.) A few minutes before the pasta is ready, add the fresh peas to the sauce and continue to simmer. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Serve in bowls and top with grated parmesan and a twirl of olive oil.
The fresh peas balance off the sweetness of the onions, making this dish truly springy and delicious!