Rachel Roddy’s Tomato and Sausage Ragout Recipe | Italian food and drink

WAs a pan burps and occasionally spits from the back of the stove, a story. The first description of tomato sauce arrived in Italy in 1628. It came from Mexico, of course, via Spain and the pen of naturalist and physician to Philip II, Francisco Hernández, whose detailed documentation of plants and Mexican food customs filled 16 volumes. Translated first into Latin and then into Italian, one of the volumes contains a description of one instinct (dip or sauce) “prepared from sliced ​​tomatoes and chili pepper, which enriches the taste of almost all dishes and whets the appetite”.

Not that anyone in Italy still ate tomatoes. They had arrived decades earlier, in the form of a few plants and seeds, again from Mexico, where they grew wild and were revered. In his recent and detailed research on spaghetti with tomato sauce, Italian food historian Massimo Montanari notes that tomatoes were treated with both curiosity and deep suspicion; they could be eaten, but doctors of the time warned that they could cause “torment to your eyes and head”.

Montanari sees sauce as a reason for the shift. Since ancient times, the use of sauces is often mentioned flavours” – was a systematic way of tempering food to achieve a balance between hot, cold, dry and wet, and for color. Cold, wet, reducible and red, tomato was ripe to embrace. The other part of the shift was the almost complete rule of Italy (and colonization of Mexico) by Madrid, and a new proliferation of recipes. Seventy years after the first mention of tomato sauce in Italy, the first recipe came through Antonio Latinoan Italian steward for a Spanish grandee in Naples, in his book Lo Scalo alla Moderna (The modern steward). Clearly from the Mexican tradition, but called alla Spagnola (Spanish style), the recipe is translated by Montanari: “Take some ripe tomatoes, roasted over a wood fire and skinned. Cut them finely with a knife, add some chopped onion, possibly chili pepper, also diced, pinch of thyme. Mix everything together and dress with salt, oil and vinegar; a nice sauce for cooked meat, or for other things.” I made this, my gas burner tries to be a wood fire, and it was extremely delicious.

A few decades later, Vincenzo Corrado, a great interpreter of Neapolitan culture and the author of the 1773 book Il Cuoco Gallante (The Gallant Cook), has only good things to say about the tomato and gives a recipe for a sauce for mutton. No meeting with pasta or macaroni, and certainly no spaghetti, a word that hasn’t even been invented yet. That would come a few years later, in 1781, when Corrado referred to tomato as a “universal” sauce that lends itself to meat, fish, eggs, pasta, and vegetables. Even more clearly in 1807, a recipe for maccheroni alla napoletanaor pasta mixed with cheese and a rich ragu made of meat stewed in tomatoes, or concentrate (proof of preservation), onion, pork, spices, maybe a glass of wine, salt and pepper.

Which brings me to this week’s recipe, inspired by all of the above, as well as what I’ve been wanting to wake up from my January slumber lately – with pasta, gnocchi, rice or as part of lasagna with béchamel and grated parmesan. After a bit of prep and frying, this ragu is brought almost to a boil and then left to simmer for 50 minutes, or until the sauce is dense, rich, and wonderfully smelling – and doesn’t “torment” anyone, except perhaps the person who needs to wipe the stove or clean it. white T-shirt needs to wash.

Ragu of tomato and sausage

To prepare 20 minutes
Cook 1 hour
Serves 8

6 tbsp olive oil
1 large onionpeeled and chopped
1 carrotpeeled and chopped
2 celery stalkstrimmed and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves
peeled, left whole and impaled on a toothpick
Salt and black pepper
6 pork sausages
removed from their casings, the flesh crumbled
1 small glass of red wine (125ml)
3 cans of 400 g
peeled plum tomatoes (1.2 kg), crushed
1 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 pinch red chilli flakes (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, rosemary and garlic with a pinch of salt for about eight minutes until beginning to soften.

Add the sausage meat and cook, stirring, until all the pink is gone. Add the wine, let it bubble for a few minutes, then stir in the tomatoes, tomato concentrate and possibly chilli flakes and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 50 minutes, until the ragu is dense and rich, then check for seasoning.

Serve with pasta, gnocchi, rice or in a lasagna (I like it with alternating layers of béchamel or ricotta loosened with milk.)