Red Sauce Meals

June 24 – June 30, 2019

braised veg

potato pancakes

Monday:                   Braised Summer Vegetables with Potato Pancakes

Indian turkey burgers

Tuesday:                   Indian Spiced Pork Burgers

pot of puttanesca

Wednesday:            Pulling-from-the-Pantry Puttanesca

Thursday:               Dunnings


Noted Golfers at Laurel Valley (Saturday) Uncle Rick, Andy, Hoddy, Me

Friday:                     Sick night – grazing

Saturday:                Valozzi’s with Tim, Hilda and Julie en route to PPT’s “Marjorie


chicken sal

green bean salad

Sunday:                  Chicken Salmoriglio, Green Bean Salad, Herbed Ricotta with Crudités and Bread Sticks, Klondike Bars

In spite of the title, it was a week with only one red sauce, and the pasta was only equal to the braised vegetables and the Indian-spiced burgers. But I had promised someone to re-post our basic pizza recipe and that seemed to rhyme with the new recipe for pasta puttanesca.  All of which seems to me to lead somehow, if not logically, historically, morally, or by sheer force of artistic necessity to the recipes chosen.

Being a life-long resident of Pittsburgh, I assure you that I enjoy me some red sauce.  In my youth the best restaurants were all Italian with the possible exception of Klein’s, famous for its garlic balls, its lobster and, come to think of it, its pasta.*  Perhaps Herr Klein married a Miss Lolabrigida.

*And, of course, the famous, heavy, nearly lethal, ‘Pittsburgh pour’ of Scotch, gin, bourbon or whiskey.  There were also, until the decline of the steel and other mills, ‘mill bars’ at which mill-workers gathered before and after their shifts to eat and to down boiler-makers – big, thick-glassed mugs of cheap beer into which a shot-glass of whiskey was dropped.  It’s amazing more people didn’t lose their teeth – I have chipped mine – on these mind-numbing concoctions.

The pizza recipe, I will remind you, was the product of years’ worth of trials in three different ovens, to get the timing, the sauce, the melt and the crust to where we loved it.  My immediate family ate many pizzas that resembled crackers, not a few with the consistency of putty, and some so burned on top that you risked any teeth you had remaining after the boiler-makers of your youth, to bite into them.

The pasta recipe is adapted from Food & Wine and appealed to me solely because of the use of sardines – a food staple that my father introduced me and my four brothers to at an appropriate stage in our education.  My mother would vacate the kitchen on these occasions.  He may have been too precipitate with my youngest brother Jeff who, in his youth, referred to this delicacy as ‘sour deans.’  But then, Pop was getting older and Jeff came along late and, well, better to have tried him with sardines and lost than never to have tried at all.

Please cook your own pizza and make this simple, quick dough.  You will need to get the cooking time right for your own oven – and, if you’ve never worked with dough, you may have a failure during your first stab at this because the weather is too dry or too humid, or you live in Cuzco or Denver.  But this is not hard, and man is this pizza worth cooking.

turkey pizza

This is a pizza we cooked last night, using some left-over turkey and Fontina cheese – get creative with your toppings – use up your pantry – and make it spicy

Here is a link to the post that contained the pizza and pizza dough recipe (August 22, 2019) – a post well worth re-reading, if I say so myself, as, in fact, I seem to have done:  Pizza and Pizza Dough

And here is the pasta puttanesca that, regardless of how you feel about sardines out of a can, you owe it to yourself to try:


Pulling-from-the-Pantry Puttanesca

(adapted from Food & Wine, July, 2019)

Timing:                                                                 About 30 minutes

Ingredients:                                                          Serves 3 or 4

8 oz. spaghetti
28 oz. can of plum tomatoes, drained
4/2 oz. can of Spanish sardines (we used Moroccan – spend some money on this ingredient, if you’re buying American, get ‘hand-caught’ or ‘line caught’)
¼ cup of chopped Castelveltranto olives (we used 3/8 of a cup)
2 anchovy fillets, chopped (these will break down completely, as you cook, and become no more than a salty element, but a very savory and most necessary one)
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes to taste (1/4 tsp to ¾ tsp – we used the latter)
2 Tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram (we used not quite 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil


Slice the garlic, chop the thyme, parsley and anchovies, open and drain the sardines, and the plum tomatoes.  Get a large pot of water going – you’ll be cooking the past in this.


Heat the oil a skillet over low.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring much of the time, until brown (2-3 minutes).  Add the anchovies and stir until they melt into the oil (maybe 1 ½ minutes).  Stir in the red pepper.

Increase the heat to medium and add the wine right away.  (You do not want your garlic to burn at any point.)  Cook until the wine reduces by half (about 6 minutes, but it can take longer).

Add the tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon.  [I find it useful to cut them with kitchen shears before this stage – I still smash them with the spoon.]

Bring this sauce to a gentle simmer and then add the sardines, the olives, capers and marjoram (or thyme).  Simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

When the sauce is about 10 minutes from finishing, add the spaghetti to a large pot of salted, boiling water and cook per directions on the package.  In the last minute or so, reserve 2 or 3 ladles of the pasta cooking water.

Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce – turn the burner under the sauce to medium while your doing this – adding the cooking water to reach your desired consistency.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

2 thoughts on “Red Sauce Meals

  1. Sardines was a go-to item for Olivia and Jerry, too – she used to ask to take them for lunch in elementary school, getting not a few weird looks from her classmates!

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