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Sadly a few days ago our Nonna passed away. She was the quintessential Italian Nonna, she always wore an apron, had a strong Italian accent and was often emotional. Our memories of her are surrounded by food. Thankfully she passed on her recipes to our dad who bought us up on lots of Italian inspired meals. This blog post is dedicated to our Nonna Maria…

Classic and easy tomato sauce 

What you need

Olive oil
Salt 2 teaspoons but if you are like me, you will want to add more.
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 punnet or tube of tomato paste (you can use a tin of tomato puree instead)
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
Secret ingredient – a teaspoon sugar (optional but it does sweeten the tomatoes)

How to make

1. Add enough oil to a pot to cover the bottom and saute the chopped onions, when soft add the garlic and soften. (be careful not to burn the garlic)

2. Add the tins of chopped tomatoes, tomato paste or puree and then add 1 tin of water.

3. Add salt and sugar to taste

4. All you need to do now is simmer the sauce uncovered until it starts to reduce. its a bit of a balancing act where you will need to add more water if it becomes too thick and more puree/paste if its not thick enough. The paste/puree adds extra depth to the tomato taste and help thicken along with the simmering.

5. I usually simmer it for at least 30 minutes however 20-30 minutes still results in a good sauce. Often its even nicer the following day.

Steamed mussels

Add clean and de-bearded mussels to a pot with a lid with a couple of tablespoons of water or wine. Turn up the heat to high and wait a few minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the lid to often as it lets the steam out and reduces the temperature. You need it to be HOT to open the shells. When I check the mussels I take the open ones out straight away and quickly put the lid back on and steam the rest.

If after about 10 minutes some shells haven’t opened – throw them away.

I find the quicker you get the mussels out once they have opened, the better – they don’t need to cook any longer. Set them aside until you are ready to plate up.

Grilled tomatoes and lemons

Cut both the tomatoes and lemons on half. Place in an oven proof dish and drizzle with olive oil. (don’t bother using oil on the lemons)

Grill until the tomatoes are soft and starting to caramelize.

Set them aside until you are ready to plate up.

How to assemble

1. Cook your spaghetti in lots of salted rapidly boiling water. It is said the water needs to be salty like the sea and  use a large pot.

2. When al-dente (to the bite) – meaning taste it and it should be firm, not soft like tinned spaghetti!!!

3. Drain and add the tomato sauce and mix through.

Some people like to mix the sauce through it first, others like to add the sauce to individual bowls of spaghetti – your choice.

4. Arrange the mussels, tomatoes and lemons in bowls and top with black pepper.

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