August 15 is a special day…it’s the major secular and religious Italian holiday known as FERRAGOSTO, the public holiday where the whole country takes off. Trust me, I know. We were in Southern Italy (Basilicata to be exact) on August 15, 2006 and there wasn’t a store or business open. An ancient holdover from Roman Times it’s a day to hang with one’s family and friends doing all sorts of Summer things, of course eating is a very Italian pastime so there is much feasting that goes on. On the religious side it’s also the Feast of the Assumption, known as LA FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, a day for church going and honoring the Mother of Christ and all those who are named ASSUNTA. Here’s my family angle to this story, it was my beloved mother’s name, ASSUNTA SCARAMUZZI BATTAGLIA, although as with many Italian-American people of her generation there was an American name that sort of corresponded with it and that was Susan. There’s a treasured picture from my vast photo archives that I took of my mom on August 15, 1976 with my new Honeywell Pentax (got it for my high school graduation) of Mom cutting a Cassata cake (a Sicilian ricotta cream filled sponge cake with fondant and candied Sicilian fruits around it) for her “name day”. Italians not only celebrate a birthday, we also celebrate the feast day of the Saint you were named after. That sure is a special picture. Although my mom used Susan most of the time back in the 70’s when wearing a gold first name initial, usually with a diamond on it became real popular. My Dad bought one S for my mom. Her mother , Grandma Scaramuzzi took one look at it and said.. in her Avellino-Naples accent “S ??? What’s this S??? Your name starts with an A” . Never disagree with your mother. Here a better view of the cake, and it’s my favorite cake, still favored for special occasions by me so if you ever wonder what kind of cake to get me, this is it.
Don’t you love the Demitasse cups for the Italian coffee? Notice the paper plates though..Mom was in Summertime mode..didn’t want to wash any dishes so she pulled out the paper plates. No company was over, just us, so no need to fuss.
This sauce we will discuss here has zero to do with FERRAGOSTO and/or August 15. Yet, my mother’s many types of pasta sauces with tomatoes is the tie in, she loved a tomato sauce with onions in it, sort of a Marinara, although that was generally tomatoes and garlic. Whether it’s genetics or just from mom making those sauces I too love a sauce with an infusion of delicious sauteed onions sometimes and the other night, having an overload of red onions I decided to tweak my usual tomato/onion sauce. In the pantry was a can of POMODORINI, imported Italian Cherry tomatoes, 15 oz can and they generally cook up quicker than a 28 oz can of San Marzanos. Simma down, I love my San Marzanos above all but right underneath I love these canned Cherry tomatoes and they are very popular in Italy. Let’s start cooking the sauce for the pasta now.
Serves 4 Takes: about 45 minutes
Sauces one lb of pasta
1 15 oz can of POMODORINI, Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes..try finding these in an ItalianDeli, Salumeria, Italian Market, your local Supermarkets or online..or use a can of Imported Italian San Marzanos or Plum tomatoes but really, the sauce rocks it with the pomodorini.
4 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
pinch of oregano
1/8 cup White Wine
1 large red onion FINELY DICED! can’t stress that enough.
1 lb pasta with indentations or holes, like Creste di Gallo, Orecchiette, Medium Shells, Casareccie, Farfalle, Mezzi Rigatoni, Pipette and cook till Al Dente according to package directions. As always the dish will rise on the merits of your ingredients. Store brand pasta will not ever taste as good as an Imported Italian or premium US brand like a Barilla. It’s only a 2.00 difference at most and you’ll be glad you did.
plenty of freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the olive oil, seems like a lot but it’s necessary for the taste and the cooking of the onions. Add the onions and season with salt and the oregano. The onions need to get soft but you want to draw out moisture and let them intensify in flavor. Cook them on medium for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, you don’t want them to brown. Then add the wine slowly. Stir. Smell that!! WOW…it’s an amazing fragrance! Let this cook for another 8 minutes on medium low. Taste an onion bit and see if it’s soft now because if you add the tomato before the onions soften in the oil, they will pretty much stay hard, only add the tomato when the onions are soft. Stir and let this simmer for 20 minutes.Taste the sauce for seasoning (Salt and pepper at this time).
When it’s thickened, cook and drain the pasta and add the al dente pasta to the pot with the sauce. Coat well. Let this cook for 1 minute then remove from the heat. Drizzle with a little more of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 1/4 cup of the grated PECORINO. Blend well. Done. No, there is no extra sauce on the side (I’m giving you ITALIAN tips here so work with me…lol..it’s not a pasta dish swimming in excess sauce, the concentrated flavors are carried by the tomato and the olive oil…).
Let me add that there is NO ONE WAY TO MAKE A POT OF PASTA AND SAUCE. There’s Sunday Sauce, There’s Bolognese Sauce, there’s Meat Sauce, there’s Amatriciana Sauce, there’s Carbonara sauce, there’s etc etc etc. And certainly there is NO one tomato sauce for pasta. I hope this stroll down my family memory lane, the smells and tastes of our dinner table give you as much joy making and eating this as it’s given me my whole life. Happy Cooking!!