"Discover Cooking, Discuss Life."

Go Back   Discuss Cooking - Cooking Forums > Recipes & Ingredients > Pasta, Rice, Beans, Grains...
Click Here to Login
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 07-31-2012, 12:24 PM   #1
Sous Chef
Luca Lazzari's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Nonantola, Modena
Posts: 858
Luca on Italian Pasta #3 - Pasta Sauces

This is the third one of a series of long articles, written in my clumsy English, which I formerly called “Luca’s lengthy treatise on Italian pasta”, from now on rechristened “Luca on Italian pasta”. This article focuses on sauces (in Italy we call them sugo, salsa or condimento - pl. sughi, salse, condimenti). The previous installments dealt respectively with pasta shapes and with the ingredients used to produce the various pasta types.

Tomato or not tomato?
Tomato or not tomato, that is the question:
Whether ’tis tastier in the mouth to devour
The drops and morsels of this reddish fruit,
Or to take arms supporting a whiter shade,
And by enjoying just oil?
The Bearded Buffoon feat. The Bard of Avon

As you can understand from those abominable verses of mine, we could draw a big distinction between tomato-based pasta sauces and sauces without tomato. But this distinction is not a reasonable one, in my humble opinion, since each and every Italian pasta sauce was developed in a specific area, using specific products, to complete and enhance specific kinds of pasta, and not to fight a battle between pro-tomatoers and anti-tomatoers. Furthermore, during the last century, many Italians moved to different areas of our country, carrying their cooking style to new and foreign places. Therefore, today tomato and its absence are mixed up and interspersed in pasta recipes across Italy, because we’re Italians and we love chaos and confusion and creativity.

Pasta and sauce marriage: questione di gusti
I firmly believe that picking the right pasta for the right sauce is a matter of taste (questione di gusti).
However I could suggest you my first commandment: delicate pasta calls for delicate sauces, strong pasta calls for strong sauces. So, long shaped, stout types of pasta (vermicelli, bucatini, spaghettoni) can be married to robust sauces, while long shaped, slender types (fidelini, spaghettini, linguine) are more properly mixed with gentler sauces. The same principle can be applied to short pasta, with farfalle or sedani in the delicate club, and rigatoni, paccheri or conchiglioni in the strong posse.
And I could also suggest you that the runnier the sauce, the coarser the pasta. Pasta with a coarse, maybe even ridged, surface, like penne rigate or rigatoni, could be more effective in holding the sauce then a smooth one. But in my personal experience, a good quality pasta will always hold a properly made sauce: pasta is not a piece of plastic, and even the smoothest one must always be more than able to grab and carry its dollop of good sauce.
Anyhow, it must be said that there are some pairings which are so well established to be considered quite sacred, like penne all’arrabbiata, trofie al pesto, spaghetti aglio e olio, tagliatelle ai funghi and so on. But no force on Earth can stop me if I want to prepare and eat trofie ai funghi or penne aglio e olio... You just have to try, taste and approve or reject, according to your own (and maybe your guests...) best judgment.

Roundup of Italian pasta sauces
Breadcrumbs and cheese, cream and eggs, fish and seafood, game and poultry, herbs and spices, meat, mushrooms and salumi, vegetables and nuts, wine and liquors... All sorts of Italian (and sometimes foreign) food are used to create pasta sauces, in all sorts of mixes, using all sorts of pasta. You’ll never end tasting new pasta recipes.
The simplest pasta sauce I can think of is pasta in bianco: pasta flavored only with oil (or butter) and grated Parmigiano or Grana cheese. The longest to prepare was a sauce with horsemeat and tomato, which was cooked for hours by the grandmother of a friend of mine. The heaviest I’ve ever tasted are pizzoccheri, a kind of pasta made with buckwheat flour, then garnished with potato, Valtellina cheese, grated Grana cheese, butter, garlic and chard.
And now let’s cut an impossibly long story short.
You can have pasta sauces with tomatoes or without tomatoes, indeed. You can use whole tomatoes, or ready tomato sauce, or tomato paste. The preparation of sauces with and without tomato usually starts from a soffritto (usually onions, garlic, celery sautéed in olive oil), which will be the base of the sauce.
In meat sauces, meat is usually cooked for a long time and turned into a ragù, or at least broken in small pieces, like in some pork sausage sauces. This is true for game and poultry, goat and sheep, beef and horse. Salumi, like guanciale or pancetta, speck or prosciutto, are usually cut in pieces or small stripes, or diced, then sautéed and mixed with other ingredients.
Fish and seafood maybe cooked and served whole with the pasta, producing a fancy visual effect with prawns, lobsters or mussels, or cut and cooked in pieces, like salmon, or used to produce a smoother sauce, mixed with other ingredients, like in meat ragù.
Cheese can be the ubiquitous Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana padano cheese grated and added in the final stage of a recipe, but can also be the main ingredient, like in cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper).
Breadcrumbs can be fried in olive oil in a pan with anchovies and broccoli, or other greens, to create some tasty simple sauces, to use with some short pasta.
Vegetables can support other ingredients or dominate a dish, like fried aubergines in the Sicilian pasta alla Norma, and eggs are needed for one of the most famous Italian recipes across the globe: pasta alla carbonara.
Mushrooms are traditionally appreciated in those (many) areas of Italy where they can easily be found: it is better to eat a pasta coi funghi in a hillside or mountain scenario, so maybe the mushrooms really come from that same place.
Nuts are sometimes used to garnish, to finish, or to give a crunchy texture (I hate this habit), but they can also be key ingredients, like pine nuts in the world-famous pesto from Liguria.
Herbs and spices are used, usually sparingly, to enhance the flavor of a sauce, while cream generally serves to bind and thicken a recipe, and wine and liquors strengthen the fragrance of a recipe, almost unobtrusively.

So, my final rule about pasta sauce is...
There is no rule, use what you can, follow your heart and your wisdom, love yourself and your guests, and don't study it, just eat it!


You eat what you are
Luca Lazzari is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2012, 12:30 PM   #2
Executive Chef
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Both in Italy and Spain
Posts: 3,425
Luca: Appreciate your wonderful thread

Buonasera Luca,

A wonderful source of information, perhaps, we could entitle your article,

And how true, delicate pastas call for delicate sauces, and heavier weight pasta shapes call for more powerful sauces ...

Truly a work of art,
Ciao, and Grazie,
Margaux Cintrano

Margi Cintrano is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2012, 12:33 PM   #3
Executive Chef
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Both in Italy and Spain
Posts: 3,425
Photo: Classic Lasagne al Forno di Emilia Romagna

Grandmom Margherite´s
Bolognese Lasagne ...

by: Margaux Cintrano ...
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	lasagne bolgonese.jpg
Views:	171
Size:	40.8 KB
ID:	14771  
Margi Cintrano is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2012, 09:02 PM   #4
Master Chef
CharlieD's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: USA,Minnesota
Posts: 9,064
Oh, how I wish some people would read this. There is this person, who was born and raised in Italy, though moved to states at age 17 or 18. Her signature dish, that she raves about, is penne regate, aldente, as she likes to point out, boiled with absolutely no salt. Served with sauce made by sauteing some onions without any seasoning what so ever and then dumping some plain tomato sauce bringing it to a boil and purred over noodles. Oh my gosh, if only she knew what she is serving...
You are what you eat.
CharlieD is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2012, 10:54 PM   #5
Sous Chef
no mayonnaise's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 553
Loved this post Lucca.
Looking forward to the rest.

Just to throw in, I think farfalle goes great with heavy cream based sauces.
no mayonnaise is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-31-2012, 10:56 PM   #6
Chef Extraordinaire
Dawgluver's Avatar
Site Moderator
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 24,600
Luca, you have a wonderful gift, and I love to read your chapters! Fascinating, yet easy enough for any layman to understand. You are a wonderful addition to DC! (BTW, there is nothing wrong with your English)

Thank you so much!
She who dies with the most toys, wins.
Dawgluver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2012, 12:36 AM   #7
Chef Extraordinaire
taxlady's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: near Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Posts: 18,849
Send a message via Skype™ to taxlady
Thank you for this great post Luca.
May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.
Robert A. Heinlein
taxlady is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2012, 12:41 AM   #8
Chef Extraordinaire
buckytom's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: My mountain
Posts: 20,478

luca, your english is better than english teachers, journalists, writers, and editors that write in english in your country.

well done.
"Thunderbolt and lightening,
very, very frightening me!" Galileo
buckytom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2012, 01:10 AM   #9
Executive Chef
Bolas De Fraile's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 3,191
Originally Posted by Dawgluver View Post
Luca, you have a wonderful gift, and I love to read your chapters! Fascinating, yet easy enough for any layman to understand. You are a wonderful addition to DC! (BTW, there is nothing wrong with your English)

Thank you so much!
I concur, Luca is one of those genuine people who takes a great pride in helping people without a hidden agenda.There are a large number of people on this board I would sit down and break bread with Luca is one.
I was married by a judge, I should have asked for a jury.
Bolas De Fraile is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-01-2012, 01:23 AM   #10
Chef Extraordinaire
buckytom's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: My mountain
Posts: 20,478
you just want your wig back.

i'm not helping you this time, bud. get harry to keep him busy while you rifle through his luggage...

i'm kidding, just kidding.

luca is the real deal. good heart, good soul. no b.s..

"Thunderbolt and lightening,
very, very frightening me!" Galileo
buckytom is offline   Reply With Quote

other, italian, pasta, sauces, i

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

» Discuss Cooking on Facebook

Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:09 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.