The Big Pasta Sauce Bake Off

Posted on 25/05/2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

When it comes to pasta sauce, everybody has their favourite and many believe that the best sauce is the never-fail one that they make themselves.

I was discussing this topic with two of my old school mates, neither of whom I would have associated with classic Italian cooking. Kev and Ernie were waxing lyrical about the merits of their very own recipes which had been handed down through the generations and had subtly improved to achieve perfection with each generational modification.

Spanish Armada

Make Bairn

Kev, whose heritage is Scottish, maintains that his recipe came into the family through an Italian mercenary who had been shipwrecked when the Spanish Armada ran aground in Scotland. He would have drowned had it not been for the soft-hearted, sentimental, young highland lass in whose ample bosom he found himself cradled when he was washed ashore. She was enthusiastically administering the kiss of life when he regained consciousness and he showed his gratitude immediately and often over the years in the manner for which Italian men have been renowned. As a result he was referred to in an admiring and jocular fashion by the local swains as “Make Bairn”, which over the years became corrupted to McBain, the name by which Kev’s family is known to this day.

Ernie, who has heaped ridicule and cast doubt upon this story on the grounds that no ancestor of Kev’s could ever have earned the soubriquet of “Make Bairn”, boasts a much longer and grander lineage. He argues that spaghetti (and hence spaghetti sauce) originated in China in a family who really did know how to “make bairns”.

The Lee Dynasty

One only needs to consult the Hong Kong white pages to see the truth of this claim. The Lee Dynasty is both legion and legend throughout the whole of China.

Marco Polo

It was from one Mr Lee that Marco Polo procured the very pasta recipe that I shared with my loyal readers in my last blog post. The cunning Polo thought that by changing the name “noodles” to “spaghetti”  he could obscure his perfidy. But he had not reckoned on the avenging spitit of Mr Lee’s antipodean descendant and Ernie sees this very blog as his opportunity to settle the score for all time.

His logic is faultless; if he can demonstrate that he possess the world’s best pasta sauce recipe, the recipe that the dastardly Polo was not able to wrench from the feeble grasp of poor, elderly and debilitated Mr Lee, then centuries of lies will be expunged and the whole of China can rejoice and reclaim its rightful place at the apex of the culinary firmament.

The plan is simple. Kev and Ernie’s recipes will be published in today’s blog and over the coming weeks any reader who believes they  have a recipe which may challenge these recipes is invited to post them in the comments’ section of this blog.

The competition will be judged by you the readers and if necessary the final word will be given to La Nonna in the event that the voting does not yield a clear-cut winner.

Now to the recipes!

                  Kev’s Recipe

INGREDIENTS

–          2 onions ( diced)

–          Heaped teaspoon finely chopped garlic

–          2 cans Roma tomatoes

–          Half capsicum ( diced )

–          4 medium sticks celery ( finely sliced and including leafy tops )

–          Quantity of home made vegetable stock

–          Half a bottle of quality red wine . I always bring red wine to the boil before use to burn off the alcohol which can leave a sharp metallic taste to a dish

–          Freshly ground pepper

–          125 ml of tomato paste

–          2 bay leaves ( fresh if possible . Basil or oregano are options depending on taste )

–          Tablespoon of sugar

Method

–          Assemble your ingredients . A large cast iron casserole dish like La Cruesset is preferable utensil

–          Take a sip of wine

–          Sauté onions in olive oil at low heat until clear

–          Add garlic and continue sauté for 2 minutes

–          Take 2 sip of wine

–          Dice tomatoes and add to pot

–          Chop and toss remainder of ingredients and add

–          Take 3 sips of wine

–          Simmer for 3 hours , stirring regularly . Do not allow to boil

–          Sip the rest of the bottle of wine

–          Depending on your ability to dice finely ,you may wish to pass your sauce through a blender

I am sure the feeling of wellbeing will mask your lack of cooking skills

ENJOY

Ernie’s Recipe

MARINARA SAUCE.

6 red capsicums.Cut in thirds, grill until skin bubbles and remove skin when cool. Does not matter if some skin remains. Cut into 3-4 mm cube pieces.

1 large eggplant, peel and dice into 10mm cubes.

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced.

Place 3 tablespoons of light olive oil into a stainless steel saucepan on a medium heat and lightly fry garlic. Add capsicum and stir until heated through and then add eggplant. Stir until all heated through and juices start to come out.

Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.

A half tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt with quarter cup of water.

Half cup of St Henri Shiraz….I insist on this Shiraz so that the wine can then be enjoyed with the meal.

A tablespoon and a half of white balsamic vinegar.

Add handful of oregano and half handful of parsley.

Simmer on low heat for at least an hour and only stir when necessary to prevent sticking as it is to be a chunky sauce.

Stir in three tablespoons of thick cream and continue simmer for another 15 mins. (A variation to the sauce which I prefer: Instead of 3 tablespoons of thick cream use 2 tablespoons of cream and 1 small rough chopped avocado in the last 15 minutes of simmering)

This should be sufficient for two meals for 4 people and can be frozen in a clean coffee bottle.

For the seafood do not use marinara mix from the supermarkets…really dislike vannemei prawns which like chickens are laced with chemical feed. Also a problem with the bought mix is that all ingredients are cooked for the same time resulting in some being overcooked.

The seafood can be of your liking and quantity. For 4, I would have:

8 green Tiger/King prawns,

8 scallops (preferably roe on),

8 mussels,

2 squid tubes and

2 salmon fillets cut into 12mm cubes.

Fry each ingredient separately with olive oil until just cooked. Mix together in saucepan and then stir in the sauce to cover by at least 15mm.

Divide on top of your favourite pasta and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

As you know pasta was invented in China and this marinara sauce has been handed down from generation to generation in our family. I am reluctant to divulge it but the promise of a prize of QV SOFT SOAP has softened my resolve.

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