The simple things

Out of sheer necessity, my mother Louise Pergolini, made simple meals at home. She was usually feeding anywhere from eight to 12 people each day.

When she knew she’d be home for a few hours, she’d often made a big stock pot of sugo, an all-purpose tomato sauce for pasta meals or braised meat dishes. It normally contained, depending on the season, whole fresh or tinned tomatoes, a soffritto of onion, carrot and celery (aka the holy trinity), a bit of fresh garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil plus a bit of red wine. Depending on what was in the fridge, it might have been enhanced with some spicy pork sausages or some pork ribs, or both. Or there may have been time to make meatballs, consigning a few of us kids to help form the little balls of pork and veal. Some of the sugo was for the evening meal and some was destined for the freezer to provide quick week-night meals.

Our stock pot was enormous and the long wooden stirrer was nearly immersed to reach the bottom. The smell was divine and us kids couldn’t resist nipping past with a corner of crusty white continental bread and dipping into the pot for a taste. I’m sure all mothers have ears in the back of their heads because Louise would sing out just as we dunked, “Hands out of the pot. There won’t be any left for dinner”.

Fast forward to 2014. The work week is busy for my husband and I, so when we have time in the kitchen together, we like to get a nice pot of sugo simmering. This weekend, it started with the soffritto of onion, carrot and celery. Then we browned some pork ribs procured earlier in the day from our Italian butcher, Marino Meats at the Adelaide Central Market. We added a few tins of whole tomatoes; some herbs – oregano, basil, thyme (both fresh and dried from our garden); a dash of Tempranillo (OK, it’s not Italian, but it was open!); garlic; red hot chillies from the garden and some dried pepperoncini. Everyone has a favourite recipe, probably like your grandmother’s with seasonal variations and accounting for heat.

While the sauce simmered away and filled the house with savoury aromas, Andrew got on to the pasta. A local grain grower Pankarra, stone mills their own wholegrain durum wheat. Combining the Pangkarra with equal parts of ’00’ flour from Molini Pizzuti we have found works well for different shapes of pasta. Add fresh eggs from our friend Ben’s chooks.

Salted water boiling, pasta in, garden-fresh parsley chopped, cheese grated and ‘voila!’, dinner.

Sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying.

7 Comments

  1. mmatucker says:

    Usually leftover hoagie rolls in my memory. Don’t ever remember having nice crusty bread in West Chester! But, oh, how I remember the song. I was a frequent flyer at the pot! Please rewrite our history and tell me we didn’t dip white cement bread (that’s what it does to your colon) in those beautiful sauces!

    • Peg, we used to have an oval continental loaf. It came in a bag from Berardi’s bakery (maker of hoagie rolls). It was white, but had all those air holes to catch the sauce. Just slightly crusty. Perfect for mopping up sauce. There was other less yummy bread in the house too!

  2. Maurizio says:

    Hi Mary, i saw your fantastic report (sorry, my bad english)! My father is from Montorio al Vomano and i spent more than 20 years of my summer holidays in Roseto degli Abruzzi – I know Montepagano, Tortoreto, Giulianova and other parts uf this area. I was born in Switzerland, so I’m swiss but a part of me remains always in Italy….if you want to contact me, feel free to do it!

    • Ciao Maurizio. Grazie per aver dedicato del tempo a leggere il mio blog e per il tuo commento! So, your English is better than my Italian. We live in Australia and I have only a few opportunities to practice my italian. I have not been to Montorio al Vomano (MaV), but in my ancestry research there are clues to my great-grandfather (Nicola Mezzacappa) possibly having family from there and nearby Altavilla, a frazione of MaV. I will visit Abruzzo next year with my husband, sister and brother-in-law to research some of my family connections there. We have travelled a few times to Switzerland and we have a very close friend in Zurich. We won’t go to Switzerland next year but hopefully in 2020. What is your cognome and do you know of any Mezzacappa families in MaV? MaryLouise

      • Maurizio says:

        Ciao Mary Louise, grazie della risposta. Mi ha fatto molto piacere. Your blog is very interesting an all the food pictures are wonderful! My cognome is FERRAGOSTO, I have a lot of relatives in Roseto degli Abruzzi, in Ponte Vomano and Basciano. My father was born in Leognano, a frazione nearby Montorio al Vomano. Bevor my father emigrated to Switzerland in september 1961, he worked as a tailor in Montorio. Bevor to come in this beautyfull country, he prefered go to Venezuela, but then he decided to come to Switzerland. For us it was surely better, because so we had the possibility to visit Italy every year in the summer! Since my birth, I’ve the italian citizenship, so when there is time to vote in Italy, i always receive a votation-card. In Switzerland you don’t receive automatically the swiss citizenship. My son, third generation of italian in Switzerland is allways italian…he’s very proud to it!

        I have been in Australia in 1998 with my wife (italian ancestry too, from Paestum). My uncle (mother-side) an my aunty lived there. Both of them were from the north of Italy (Belluno and Vicenza). Now there remains only my “cugina” Sandra an there childrens. They are all living in Sydney.

        I dont’ know anything about the Mezzacappa familiy-tree, I’m sorry! This days I will call my father’s sister an ask her, if she knows the Mezzacappa, ok? There are more then 10 years I wasn’t in Abruzzo, but we are going to Italy every year spending a few days at the adriatic coast and in winter in the north for skiing. As my son is a big football fan (his favourite team is Juventus), we are allways in Torino, when the team is playing at home. So, I hope, you will write me back. Take care. I have not facebook, but eventually you have whatsapp? Saluti dalla Svizzera

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