One of the most iconic dishes in Italy (and America) is the classic pasta with tomato sauce. It can directly trace its history to the 19th century and Neapolitan Chef, Ippolito Cavalcanti. In 1839, in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s cookbook “Cucina Teorico Pratica” the recipe that was to become the very symbol of Neapolitan — and Italian — cuisine is first mentioned – vermicelli al pomodoro (small spaghettis with tomato sauce). Also, Cavalcanti provides a recipe for another Neapolitan specialty – vermicelli alle vongole (small spaghettis with clams).
Here’s his recipe for pasta with tomato sauce, as written by Cavalcanti himself, in his pleasantly old-fashioned, Neapolitan-infused Italian:
“Piglia rotoli 4 (700 gr ca.) de pommodoro, li tagli in croce, li levi la semenza e quella acquiccia, li fai bollire, e quando si sono squagliati li passi al setaccio, e quel sugo lo fai restringere sopra al fuoco, mettendoci un terzo di sugna, ossia strutto di maiale.
Quando quella salsa si è stretta giusta bollirai 2 rotoli (350 gr ca.) di vermicelli verdi verdi (cotti al dente) e scolati bene, li metterai in quella salsa, col sale e il pepe, tenendoli al calore del fuoco, così s’asciuttano un poco. Ogni tanto gli darai rivoltata, e quando son ben conditi li servirai.”
Take four rotoli (about 2 lbs) of tomatoes, cut them in four and remove all the seeds and watery innards. Cook them and when they break into pieces, pass them through a sieve and cook them further, adding a third of sugna, that is, pork lard.
When the sauce has thickened nicely, you’ll boil two rotoli (about 1 lb) of vermicelli verdi verdi (did he mean fresh?), cook them al dente and, after having drained them carefully, you’ll add them to the sauce with some salt and pepper and keep them on the fire, so that they’ll dry a little. You’ll need to stir them once in a while and when they’re all covered in sauce, they are ready to be served.
Not much has changed in nearly two hundred years of Italian cuisine. Here is our special family recipe that was passed down from my great-grandfather Giovanni Fattorosi that is much easier to make that Cavalcanti’s original 1839 recipe.
Ingredients for a vegetarian sauce:
1 Bottle of Fattorosi Infused Olive Oil
2 Bottles of Fattorosi Passata di Antico Pomodoro
Additional ingredients for a true Neapolitan Ragu with Meat:
Full Rack of Pork Ribs
Remove the plastic retaining cap from the bottle of Fattorosi Infused Olive Oil and coat the bottom of a 6-quart stock pot, preferable an 8 quart, especially if you are going to make the traditional Neapolitan Ragu with meat. Make sure you add the entire contents of the bottle including all the herbs and spices.
The Fattorosi Infused Olive Oil contains our proprietary blend of onions, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper and red pepper so there’s no need to add anything to the oil.
Heat under a low flame for 2 minutes – do not use high heat or leave it heating too long.
Once the oil is warm, add in the 2 bottles of Fattorosi Passata di Antico Pomodoro.
Cook under a low flame for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
The secret to an authentic Italian sauce is cooking it slow and under low heat. Do not cover the pot. This will allow for water to escape the sauce so it may thicken and “boil down.” A thick sauce will coat the pasta much better.
If you can stand a wooden spoon in the middle of the pot without it falling over, you have cooked the sauce perfectly.
To make the traditional Neapolitan Ragu you will need to add meat to the sauce.
1 hour prior to cooking the sauce, prepare the ribs.
Cut the full rack into individual ribs. Place into a foil covered roasting pan.
Heat your oven to 350°
Pre-cook the ribs uncovered for 1 hour.
Remove the ribs and add them to the sauce.
Drain any drippings from the roasting pan into the sauce.
Cook the sauce (following the instructions above), with the ribs, on a low flame for at least 2 hours.
You will know that the sauce is finished when all the meat has fallen off the rib bones.
For additional flavor you can also prepare and make meatballs or sausage and add them to the sauce as well. Just make sure your pot is large enough.