french-italian pasta

In my fantasy life, I always cook to music– probably something French and perfectly casual cool, and usually in a kitchen that closely resembles Ina Garten’s. In real and not quite as elegant life, the TV is almost always on in the background, scrolling through the saved up silliness on our DVR. But this dinner calls for something very different from a previously recorded episode of the Bachelorette, and somethinig very specific. This dinner needs Frank Sinatra. It’s such a lovely long simmering sauce, Italian in sensibility but actually created by a French(ish) family, and it makes me want to slow down, have a glass of wine, and sing along to The Lady is a Tramp while I slice garlic. This is a pasta simple enough for a weeknight, but with a definite relaxed weekend vibe. And oh is it good.

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Like so many other wonderful things–José Andrés restaurants, how surprisingly awesome beets are as a fancy cocktail ingredient, all music that was popular in middle school before my family had cable–I was introduced to the magical world of Mimi Thorisson through Laura. And holy heck, talk about fantasy living. If you don’t already read her blog or follow her insta, I highly recommend it. Each post or pic is a teeny mental vacation to somewhere ridiculously beautiful (full disclosure: sometimes almost annoyingly beautiful, depending on your mood), where it seems like Mimi and co have perfected the art of weekend style living every day of the week. It’s the kind of blog that makes you want to try the recipes, just to see if you can catch a little bit of the shine. And this recipe, with it’s easily accessible ingredients, is a great place to start.

simmering sauce, with and without parchment paper.

simmering sauce, with and without parchment paper.

Part of what I love best about this sauce is it’s depth. Garlic and tomatoes are the foundation, rounded out by vinegar, sugar, red wine, and dried chilies. The sauce simmers under parchment paper for 30 to 40 minutes, for reasons which are mysterious to me–I suppose it keeps everything from reducing too much?–but I’ll tell you what, you feel like you must be doing something fancy and in the know when you put a circle of parchment over your sauce. The end result is a great sharp flavor, with the wine definitely still in evidence, that gets mellowed beautifully by butter and parmesean, and brightened up by basil. We add sausage, because of course we do, but I don’t think you need it. The flavors definitely hold up on their own, and taste wonderfully rich. It feels like a perfect combination of it’s faux Italian and French(ish) roots, and is the kind of dinner that makes it easy to slow down and simmer a bit yourself, even on a weeknight. Especially with a little Frank in the background.

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Vito Posillipo’s tomato sauce
adapted slightly from Manger

ingredients
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
one large can good-quality peeled & drained tomatoes
2 dried red chilies
3 gloves garlic, sliced
1 big glass red wine
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (I’ve used less on days when 6 tbs was just too much, and haven’t felt the lack)
salt and pepper
1 lb of your fave pasta shape
sausage, cooked separately, if you need a meat in your dinner

instructions
Heat the olive oil in a large high sided skillet over medium heat, and add sliced garlic. Simmer til the garlic softens, then add the tomatoes and crush them with a large spoon or a potato masher (my new favorite trick–it makes such quick work!). Add the dried chilies, vinegar, sugar and red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan with parchment paper, lower the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the tomato sauce. Add the butter, parmesan and basil, stir gently and serve immediately (I’ve also moved these steps around, adding the butter, basil, and parm to the sauce and letting everything simmer together for a few minutes before adding the pasta. Six of one half a dozen of the other, I think). Serve with additional parmesan and basil, and sausage if that’s your scene.

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