As a relatively young country, Italy still has strong regional identities and this is reflected in her great variety of cuisines. While the common thread across Italy is the ethos of taking the best ingredients and simply cooking them to show them at their finest, the favoured ingredients, and preferred methods of preparation, vary significantly according to where you are.
One prime example of the variations in Italian cuisine are the differing uses of tomatoes across the country. Tomatoes grow well all across Italy, but their use varies from region to region. For example the Veneto region cooks with a smooth passatas which are suitable for both a delicate quickly cooked fish, or a longer slower cooked dishes such as those containing meatballs and rice.
Parma is in the Emilia Romagna region; the capital Bologna is the home of ragù alla bolognese, again made with tomatoes but this time a concentrated puree.
The rolling hills of Tuscany surround Florence, and here you will find fresh chopped tomatoes served simply on Bruschetta, or tomato and bread soup, washed down with a glass of Chianti, from central Tuscany.
- Glug good quality olive oil
- 1 small onion – finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
- 550ml bottle of passata
- ½ glass red or white wine (optional)
- Salt & Pepper to season
- Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until it starts to turn golden, reduce the heat and add the passata. Fill the bottle about a third full with water give a good shake and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
- Gently cook for about 20 minutes stirring from time to time (I use a splatter guard to cover the pan otherwise it can make a mess on the hob) until reduced by about a third.
- Toss with freshly cooked pasta and serve with a few fresh basil leaves and a sprinkling of parmesan.