Opening Boxes

Sometimes I decide to accept a minor event as a sign pointing me in a particular direction.  I go with it and take the ride.

After reading several tributes to the Italian Cookbook author, Marcella Hazan, who died recently, urging readers to go out and buy Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking as a way to honor her, I wondered if I ought to do just that.

A few days later, I was going through some boxes in a third floor closet, looking for some childhood photo albums and scrapbooks.  While I didn't find what I was looking for, I did open a box containing items from my mother's apartment that I had quickly packed up after she died and we were preparing to sell her place. 

It was like Christmas morning, when I pulled out The Classic Italian Cookbook.

This edition is a re-print published in 1980, and my mother must have received it as a gift.  The edges of the jacket are a bit torn at the top, but otherwise it appears to never have been used.  

I thought I'd try dedicating myself to it, at least the recipes not containing meat.  I've been feeling lately that I want to settle in and learn from a master cookbook author.  An opportunity has come knocking. 

I know Marcella wouldn't approve of our eating a bowl of spaghetti as our main course like we did last night, but the tomatoes for the sauce did come from my garden, so I hope she would forgive our American ways.

Give yourself about two and a half hours to prepare this sauce, and while it simmers, putter about and wash that sink-full of dishes from the day, pour yourself a glass of wine and spend a few minutes with a book you're in the middle of reading. 

Maybe take a moment and think about who or what this slow-cooking sauce might connect you to.

Sughi di pomodoro
Tomato Sauce I
adapted from The Classic Italian Cookbook

2 pounds fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

1.  Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise.  Cook in a covered saucepan at a steady simmer for 10 minutes.  Uncover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours more.
2.  Puree the tomatoes through a food mill into a bowl.  Discard the seeds and skin.
3.  Rinse and dry the saucepan.  Put in the olive oil, then add the chopped onion, and lightly saute over medium heat until just translucent, not browned.  Add the carrot and celery and saute for another minute.  Add the pureed tomato, the salt, and the sugar, and cook at a gently simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Stir from time to time while cooking.

Serves 4 as a main course