This article was contributed by Susan Spalt. Susan lived in Italy as a teenager and has traveled extensively in Italy and Europe.
Last summer a farmer friend sold me some special tomatoes that she had grown from seeds she had brought back from Italy. They were sauce tomatoes. Meaty, not watery. I made sauce with the tomatoes and right before serving I added just a touch of butter and some basil. We had the sauce on capellinni, very thin spaghetti, with just a bit or freshly grated parmesan cheese.
It was “meraviglioso”. Tasting the sauce took me back to Northern Italy, to a rustic restaurant where we tasted fresh tomato sauce for the first time. I could see the rolling hills out the window and picture my mother and father and sisters around the table. That’s what Italian cooking does. The simplicity of the dishes and the quality of
the ingredients makes perfection possible, and with the perfection comes a bit of melodrama – but such is the stuff of Italian Cooking. And some recipes never need to be updated.
Italian cooking is almost synonymous with good tomatoes. They are everywhere. I like tomatoes and I like their history. They were once forbidden because it was thought they inspired passion, even lust, in a society that was supposed to be proper and sedate. As it turns out tomatoes do inspire passion – for tomatoes! And who knows how many romances may have been advanced by the serving of a perfect sauce. And now tomatoes are not only not forbidden – they are “recommended eating”
for good health. Lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes, is similar to antioxidents and is currently thought to reduce the risk of some
Tomatoes in Italy are to be honored and appreciated; they need little if any ornamentation. There are so many kinds! It is important to match the recipe with the right kind of tomato. Sauce tomatoes, usually plum or Romas, should be used for making sauce. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes used for sauce in Italy, and many in the US. They can be small, or medium sized, shaped like a giant tear
drop or oddly shaped with wrinkles, but they are always meaty, never watery.
As you get ready to plant your garden this spring be sure to include vegetables that you can use in your Italian Kitchen – La Cucina!