When you think Italian, most people picture delicious food. You know… fabulous pasta dishes like you’d order at Olive Garden and Johnny Carino’s!
This was the perception I had until a visit to Italy last fall. My sister, even less willing to try new things than me, tried to stick to the “safe” items on the menu – the entrées which had multi-lingual descriptions of what we hoped was very similar to spaghetti or lasagna. However, no matter how similar to American food the menu made the entrée sound, the dish was always far from what we expected – leaving us to choke down a strange version of what we’d eat back home.
Aren’t these guys supposed to be the pasta pros of the world? Who would have thought that Italians – of all people – would bring ketchup when you asked for tomato sauce for your spaghetti-like meal? Noodles and ketchup with mince meat just weren’t cutting it (what is mince meat anyway? “Mince” resembles “mice” too much to feel comfortable consuming it). I felt like a kid again, sitting at the dinner table with a bowl of lima beans, dreading the next bite.
Shortly after we got to Italy, our attempt at having cultural dining experiences was unanimously terminated and we did our best to eat at pizzerias and McDonalds for the remainder of the trip. Needless to say, that vacation hugely changed my perception on Italians and their food.
I had brought a book along on the trip to kill time on the 67-hour flights. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone was a gift from a friend who recognized I had been single for an unusually long period of time. Not because there’s anything wrong with me, of course. There’s simply a severe lack of available perfect men and an abundance of mediocre dudes with significant issues.
Regardless of my terrible dating life, I lugged this somewhat offensive book along on the trip and actually began to enjoy it on the plane ride home. Each writer shares a comical story and a recipe they devised when living (alone) in an insanely small apartment with no kitchen sink while going to college, after a divorce, or at some other lonely stage of their lives.
Even though at times the book made me feel in need of a heavy dose of anti-depressants, I continued to read and found a recipe that sounded absolutely delicious! Ironically it’s an Italian dish – written in half Italian, half English. Impeccable timing considering I had just suffered through 10 days of picking away at mysterious, unusual Italian foods which concluded with the most unappetizing plane food experience known to any flying man. You’d think I’d swear off Italian food forever, but this recipe, unlike anything I had tried in the last week and a half, sounded like a cuisine dream!
After returning home, I demoed the meal for a group of friends. Contrary to my dining experiences in Italy, the vegetarian dish was far better than expected. After a bit of tweaking, the dish has definitely become one of my favorites to prepare – especially for all the “dates” I’ve been having lately, like my brother and his girlfriend. And of course, as with anything in my opinion, it pairs well with a very large glass of red wine.
And so, I pass on to you – Salsa Rosa! (Translated for your convenience.)
(Note: Don’t forget to roll your “R”. If you can’t roll your “R”, flip a “D” instead – Salsa Rdosa! If the dish doesn’t impress your guests, your Italian verbiage will!)
Angel hair noodles (whole wheat is a healthier option and you can’t even taste a difference!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 can of diced tomatoes (20 oz.) –
3 chopped Roma tomatoes
(NOTE! Amount and type of tomatoes is up to the chef! You can do more real tomatoes and less of the canned stuff, or do all canned if you wish. Feel free to add more tomatoes than the recipe calls for if you’re cooking for a group of people.)
A zucchini (skip this if you don’t like it, add an extra if you do!)
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 pint of whipping cream
What to do to prepare the Salsa Rrrrrosa!
1.) In a large skillet, simmer the garlic in the olive oil.
2.) Add chopped zucchini and Roma tomatoes.
3.) After tomatoes start breaking down, open can(s) of tomato and drain as much juice out as possible. Add to the skillet.
4.) Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
5.) Add butter, simmer until melted.
6.) Add parmesan cheese, stir, simmer uncovered
7.) Slowly pour in whipping cream until you get the consistency you desire. Usually just ¼ of a pint is enough, as the mixture may be slightly runny at this point. Continue simmer with the lid off for a few minutes. Adding more parmesan cheese or just a touch of corn starch will also help thicken.
8.) Add pepper
Serve over angel hair pasta. Recipe feeds two really hungry people. Buona Fortuna!