The last post stirred a lot of emotions … so what is better than sitting down together to enjoy something most appealing to the taste-buds, filling .. and simply delicious? How about Pasta Asciutta – which is nothing different but plain old spaghettisauce!

During the time I was busy mastering the ABC of SCUBA-diving at the island of Elba/Italy together with a girlfriend, we had rented a small room with kitchenette and refrigerator for three weeks. None of us was blessed with money and we had to watch very carefully how we spent what we had in order to manage. There was no way we could have afforded to go out for dinner every day so we went shopping at the local market – and cooked. This was the time when I heard about the recipe of a local grandmother who was famous for her “pasta asciutta”, tried it out – and this is what I use ever since. What’s very important – it is well worth to prepare a LARGE amount at once as it can easily be deepfrozen! Another very convenient aspect it the fact that it becomes more and more delicious the more often it is re-heated!

To cut a long story short … here are the ingredients for ~4 people:

– 1 “quick round” of oil (I use only olive-oil)

– 1 large onion, diced

– 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed

– 1-2 carrots, diced

– 1-2 sticks of sellerie, diced (if unavailable, use sellerie-seeds or simply substitute by another vegetable)

– 1/2 kg ground beef (lean), if desired, you can use more!

– 3 cans peeled or crushed tomatoes, each 800 cc (with juice)

(OR: ~4 large tomatoes, diced, with ca. 1 l water)
I prefere the cans – out of convenience! I like to put one can in the blender and leave the other with the pieces – I like the sauce to have some structure!

– ~2 Tbs tomato-paste (optional)

– 2 soup cubes

– Salt, pepper, paprika to taste

– a handfull(!) FRESH basil, chopped (mandatory!) – if unavailable, dried, the fresh tastes classes better!

– chopped parsley (optional)

– chopped thyme (if possible fresh, if not – dried) – optional but tremendously taste-enhancing!

– dash of ready ketchup

Preparation – very simple:

Put the oil in a pot, add the onions and garlic till transparent, add carrots and sellerie. Cook for ca. five minutes then add the ground beef. Cook till crumbly. Spice. Add tomato-mixture (whatever you chose), tomato-paste, soup-cubes and basil, parsley and whatever you wish to use besides of that!

Let it cook on low flame for an hour or more (in Italy these sauces often cook for hours!) … just stir once in a while, adjust if necessary the liquid – and be at ease!

At the end, taste and if necessary, adjust the spices. Let it sit for a short while before serving – that gives the tastes a chance to blend and the surplus liquid to get better absorbed!

It is served on a bed of piping hot spaghetti (cooked “al dente” of course!) and topped with 2-3 tsp. “Parmesano” (grated hard cheese) or any grated cheese available! The word “spaghetti” can be literally translated as “little strings”. While legend has it that Marco Polo brought the recipe for spaghetti back from China, prior evidence showed that pasta has been made in Italy at least since the 4th century BC.

A glass of red wine is almost a must – in Italy it is frequently accompanied by “aqua e vino”, 50/50 water and wine … something which I feel takes getting used to. If non-alcoholic beverage is prefered, any fresh juice will go along wonderfully as well!

For folks who do not mind eating pork – here’s a hint: right at the beginning, fry half a cup full of cubed bacon together with the onions and garlic! The rest of the preparation is the very same.

NOTA BENE: Should you have guests and wish to prepare this sauce, you can easily do that a day ahead .. remember – the more often this sauce is re-heated, the more delicious it tastes!


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