Grim’s Grub: Anything But Red Sauce – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal
With a cold breeze in the air, I can’t help but want to load up on carbs, but over the past few years I’ve been moving away from traditional red sauces, which aren’t even that traditional.
It turns out that this tradition came from how Italian immigrants were introduced to the United States. This red sauce, while somewhat reminiscent of the sauce in a bolognese sauce, is not old world Italian per se.
In Italy there were certainly red sauces, but it was not really what you find in the Prego can. Most of their pasta sauce was much simpler.
These sauces could be based on fat, wine or cream, even lemon juice or minced meat like a bolognese, but it was rarely also tomato, but it was what the Italian immigrants had available to them at the place of the traditional olive. oil, truffles and an abundance of sea ingredients.
The peak of Italian immigration to the United States was between 1880 and 1921. The vast majority of them came from southern Italy. At the end of what has been dubbed “The Great Arrival”, there were approximately 4 million Italian immigrants in the United States, representing over 10% of our foreign-born population.
Many of these immigrants were driven to the United States by their differences with those who controlled Italy itself. Although the nation was under one ruler, the country still suffered from the scars of generations of civil strife, and after the smoke cleared, not everyone was better off for living through it. Many were impoverished with little hope of improvement, so rumors of the vast wealth available in the United States were virtually irresistible.
They brought Italian tastes with them, but they found a market that didn’t necessarily provide them with what they needed for completely familiar foods and dishes. So they approximated and used what they had, and what they had in abundance cheap was tomatoes.
Of course, they certainly used these fruits in Italy, but they were companions and companions to other ingredients. Tomatoes weren’t the only thing they could speed up either. Although life was still difficult for Italian immigrants (like immigrants today, there was often anti-Italian sentiment), American prosperity stories proved true in certain factors, for example, the plenty. Not only were tomatoes cheap, but meats and cheeses were now more affordable, and they used them.
Italians have embraced the tomato sauce and according to Food52.com, they’ve made it a competition among Italian neighborhoods. Who could make the richest, most delicious tomato sauce? And they paired it with other bountiful ingredients to celebrate the nutritional luxury of their new life. Italians at home never had enough ground beef for tennis ball-sized meatballs in their pasta, but Italian Americans did. Back home, the Italians didn’t have fried chicken covered in red sauce and cheese (far too expensive), but the Italian Americans did. And that’s how many authentic Italian dishes were born, not overseas, but in the Italian neighborhoods of the United States, and red sauce was king…but that being said, let’s mix it up a bit.
Pepper Pasta Sauce (inspired by Steve Cusato, but with substitutions)
- 1 lb butterfly pasta
- 3 red bell peppers, peeled and thinly sliced (Google how to steam/peel them)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 5 anaheim or serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons roasted garlic
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 liter heavy cream
- Romano or parmesan to taste
- salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon cold butter
Start by putting a pot of salted water for your pasta. Heat while you cook the rest of your ingredients and add the noodles once the water begins to boil. They must be done at the right time.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and once hot, sauté your onions. Season them lightly with salt. As soon as they begin to turn translucent, add the peppers. Once the onion is completely translucent and tender, add the garlic, chili flakes, remaining peppers and paprika.
Cook until the garlic browns slightly around the edges, then add the tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the cream. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for five minutes to combine the flavors and thicken the cream. Allow to cool slightly before putting in a blender (cooling will prevent a steam explosion). Blend until completely smooth.
By this time your pasta should hopefully be just short of al dente. Return your sauce to the pan over medium-low heat then slowly melt the butter into the sauce. Taste the sauce and determine if it needs salt (don’t add too much as the cheese is also salty). Add the noodles, along with a little water, to your sauce and stir to combine. Turn off the fire. If it is very thick, add more pasta water. Lift the pan off the heat and sprinkle on your cheese. Stir to melt. You can dilute with more water or thicken to your liking by adding more cheese. Once you’ve reached your preferred thickness, serve your pasta.
Braised Onion Pasta (Erin Alexander, Food52)
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup Madeira
- 3/4 pounds cooked peppardelle or similar flat noodles
- grated parmesan to taste
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.
Add the sugar and a pinch of salt then lower the heat to low. Cook the onions slowly for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. They are cooked when black, caramelized with an almost jammy consistency. Stir in Madeira, use it to deglaze the pan and cook for a few more minutes, then add the cooked pasta to the pan. Sprinkle Parmesan generously over the pasta and mix the pasta well with the sauce. Serve with additional grated Parmesan, flaky salt and pepper to taste.
Travis Grimler is a weekly editor for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He can be reached at 218-855-5853 or [email protected]