When we were kids, the “spaghett” cooked up by mom – or grandma – for Lenten meals was often topped with a light clam sauce, either red or white which remains a family favorite to this day.
This light sauce approach gradually evolved into a staple, claiming the ground once owned by grandma’s familiar, long-simmering “gravy” which bubbled like Vesuvius on the stove for hours luring kids and adults alike to the pot where they dipped samples behind her back and made off with their treasures like pirates.
It seems years since I turned out a steaming “gravy” modeled on grandma’s heady brew. Bowing to today’s craze for healthy eating, I generally compose a light sauce at least once a week to be served over whole grain pasta. In summer and early fall, chopped Jersey tomatoes form the base of choice.
In the winter, I switch over to canned Jersey tomatoes available now in many supermarkets or packaged, re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes.
For the third Friday in Lent, you might enjoy one of many variations popular at our house. This one is a light sauce with black olives, garlic and sundried tomatoes. Feel free to tweak the recipe by using your favorite olives or even capers. I chose plump, canned black olives but have used green olives successfully and capers always seem to add zest to a light sauce. Since my father loved to experiment with sauces with ingredients such as these, I’ve named it “Pasta Pietro” in his honor.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil; 2 tablespoons butter or butter substitute; 4 garlic cloves, mashed; 1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water to rehydrate according to package directions, and drained and chopped; 1 1/2 cups chicken broth; 1/3 cup pasta water; 3/4 cup sliced black olives; 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley; 1 scant teaspoon sugar (optional); grated Pecorino Romano cheese for topping and 10 ounces of your favorite pasta – I used medium shells.
Directions: Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, return to the pot, cover and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter (or substitute) and garlic over medium heat. Stir in the re-hydrated, chopped tomato, chicken broth and pasta water and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the olives, parsley and sugar (if desired) to the mixture and stir to mix evenly. Simmer for a minute or two.
Serve the pasta in a large pasta bowl topped with the sauce and Pecorino romano cheese to taste. Serves 4