Sugo d’agnello (Slow-cooked Lamb and Tomato Sauce)
My maternal Nonna wasn’t the most sophisticated cook. She would always make the same two or three dishes, but, to this day, my siblings, my cousins and I are yet to taste anything as comforting and delicious as her sugo di pomodoro, polenta con salsiccia and sugo d’agnello. It was always fascinating to observe her in the kitchen, effortlessly turning everyday, humble ingredients into delightful feasts. She never once measured anything, her only tools were her hands and her eyes. And her exquisite taste buds! For your sake, I have attempted to provide measurements, but feel free to adjust to your liking, the way Nonna always did.
INGREDIENTS, serves 4
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves
2 small onion or French shallots, peeled and left whole
1/4 pepper (capiscum)
1 celery stick
1/2 cup of good red wine
1 table spoon of tomato paste (concentrate)
2 tins of good quality can tomatoes or home-made passata
1 rosemary or thyme sprig
a few origano leaves
500 gr (16 oz) of fresh tagliatelle or tagliolini
1. Heat up the oil in a sauce pan; with the back of your knife, bash the garlic cloves in their skin and add them to the hot oil along with a few large chunks of yellow or red pepper (capsicum), the peeled French shallots (or onion), the celery stalk and rosemary sprigs.
2. When the vegetables have taken a bit a colour, brown a few large pieces of shoulder or shank of lamb. De-glaze the pan with a glass of red wine and cook on a high flame until the alcohol has eveporated.
3. Add the tinned tomatoes (home-made would be my Nonna’s preference, but feel free to use good quality tinned ones, like Mutti or Cirio). Turn the heat right down and cook slowly and covered with a mesh lid for 3 to 4 hours. After that time you can discard the garlic, the peppers and the celery stalks. Turn the heat up and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and white pepper, to your liking.
Serve generously with home-made tagliolini (pictured below) or any pasta you prefer.