How to make authentic ‘Pasta asciutta’ (Italian tomato sauce) to eat with pasta

In southern Italy, there are variations in the recipe to make the tomato sauce that accompanies the Pasta. Here is a recipe, given to me by my Italian mother-in-law, that comes from Messina in Sicily. Tomato sauce can be eaten alone with spaghetti or as a base for many of the other pasta dishes Italian families eat. This recipe has been passed down through the generations (Italian men rarely cook) and today it is as good as ever.

Step one. Take a large onion. Coat the bottom of a skillet with virgin olive oil. Peel and chop the onion and place it in the olive oil, adding a teaspoon of salt. Fry the onion gently until it starts to brown, then add a cup of water and continue to boil, stirring occasionally. As the mixture in the pan reduces, add more water until the onion is colored and almost dissolved.

Second step. While reducing the onion, you can peel about fifteen medium tomatoes or open a can of peeled Italian tomatoes. The difference for me is minimal between real or canned tomatoes, and my mother-in-law uses both, depending on the season. Peel a medium carrot and cut a piece of meat for braising or frying into several medium cubes.

Step three. Add the tomatoes to the onion sauce that has been reduced and, using a cheese grater, finely grate the whole carrot into the mixture. Add the beef cubes and a couple of cups of water, and simmer for about forty minutes to an hour. Stir the mixture every now and then and add a little more water if it gets too thick. The sauce should be the consistency of yogurt.

When the sauce is done, scoop out the meat cubes and set aside; they can be eaten later and will be lovely and tender.

Boil the spaghetti until cooked and drain the water, leaving the spaghetti in the pan. Add the sauce to the skillet and mix. Serve with finely grated Parmesan cheese and a good white wine.

This is the basic recipe for a simple ‘pasta asciutta’, which in English translates as Pasta with tomato sauce; This is the staple diet of southern Italy and is the basic sauce for many other dishes, which I will write about in future articles. Enjoy your meal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *