This is travel related only in the sense of what we learned about pasta and sauces when we lived for eighteen months in the village of Tirrenia in Tuscany. (By the way, that inspired the short story Painted Cabanas if you want a quick read.) We were no strangers to pasta, or so we thought. Food in Italy is highly regional, to include the type of pasta and certainly the sauces. Yes, Bolognese and pomodore (what we think of as marinara) can be found almost everywhere, but pesto is more common around Genoa than in other places and if you see marinara on the menu, the odds are it will be a tomato-based sauce with clams or mussels. The other thing we learned was that with the exception of Bolognese, sauces are cooked very quickly – they do not simmer for hours. In fact, most of them cook in about fifteen minutes. The secret to how delicious they are is high quality olive oil and fresh ingredients (although canned or boxed tomatoes count as “fresh”).
A sauce fairly limited to our area was matriciana and it is basically onion, garlic, prosciutto, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine. Ready?
12 slices of prosciutto, julienned, one tablespoon olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, half a medium onion, sliced, one can diced or chopped tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon basil (fresh if you can), 1/4 cup red wine, salt and pepper to taste. Bring a skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil to brown the prosciutto for 5-6 minutes until it crisps a bit. Remove it to a plate. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2-4 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, wine, herbs and seasoning. Stir thoroughly, then stir the prosciutto in. Cook for another 5-6 minutes until the liquid is cooked down. You will probably need to stir every 1-2 minutes to keep the prosciutto from sticking. Serve over your favorite pasta. This makes enough sauce for 2 people. You can also add pepperoni and/or hard salami if you like to give it more depth. If so, julienne about 12 slices of pepperoni and 6 of salami that you cook at the same time as the prosciutto.