Please meet Cooking Italy’s most delinquent member, me.This wonderful cooking club is dedicated to the earthy Italian cuisine of the great Marcella Hazan. Every month, 4 recipes or so from Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cuisine are tested by club members who then post the results online. Wonderful cooks and bloggers from all over the world belong to Cooking Italy, just google and see.
So, after 3 months as a club member, I have this one and only recipe to show for my efforts. Don’t ask. This quick and easy dish cooks and serves under 30 minutes, a definite plus for busy moms seeking kid-friendly food. While the original recipe calls for fresh chiles, I substituted red pepper flakes which are in keeping with tradition and, truth be told, a favourite way of mine to kick it up a notch.
Now, the “Essential” question: Did Junior enjoy? He, the shrimp afficionado who loooooves just about anything smothered in tomato sauce? Well, sometimes, he comes home with his mind set on inducing peanut butter overdose and nothing else. This was one of those times. He wolfed down the baguette served for dunking but turned up his nose at both shrimp and sauce. Dad, on the other hand, was unstoppable and had to be reminded that 4-5 shrimp equal one full serving of protein… Junior notwithstanding, I will be making this again.
While many cooks add carrot to sweeten tomato sauce (yes, even the great Mario Batali!), Italian mamas who are sticklers for tradition prefer removing tomato seeds as a way to prevent bitterness. How? By crushing fresh or canned whole tomatoes in the blender, then sifting the pulp to remove seeds. Of course, in ancient times, they probably just crushed tomatoes by hand… (Thanks to the ladies of the Cooking Italy Club for that bit of insight.) As for me, over time, I’ve learned to use the best canned tomatoes available, to sauté lots of onions gently and slowly, then to chill my marinara overnight to develop its natural sweetness without sugar. Three simple tricks that make all the difference!