Simple pasta sauce – ‘ammoglio’

When Italians cook up a simple pasta sauce or ‘ammoglio’, it will begin with gathering the tomatoes either from their own garden, or the local market. The type of tomato is not overly important. What is important is that the tomato should be of good quality, in season and fresh. Although it should be said that some tomatoes are sweeter than others, some juicier. The flavor of the resulting sauce will depend on the type of tomato you choose.

If you have ever watched an Italian putting together a sauce, there is a gentle rhythm and a definitive structure that could go unnoticed. They make it all look so easy! It is interesting to me that the sauce will begin with flavoring of some olive oil in the pan. The olive oil will be join by a lump of garlic, not finely crushed but lightly squashed. It will linger in the oil for a minute or two before it is removed and discarded. Then follows all the other ingredients which are gently stirred in cooked for up to 30 minutes before the sauce is considered to be ready.

In the southern areas of Sicily, this sauce is known as an ‘ammoglio’ (amm-moll-leo), a word that may be taken from the verb ‘ammogliare’ meaning ‘to marry’.

Simple pasta sauce – ammoglio – serves 2 – 4

  • 2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, lightly squashed.
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups diced, seeded tomatoes, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (include soft stems)
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves

simple tomato pasta sauce - ammoglio

  1. In a large pan add the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and shallots. Lightly fry over a low to medium heat until the onions are softened but not browned.
  2. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook over a low to medium heat until the sauce from the tomatoes has reduced by at least a third.
  3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, cover and allow to simmer for a further 20 – 30 minutes.

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