In the freezer section of many supermarkets today, you will find cold meat that looks like very coarsely grated beef (okay, if you want to be more precise, the stuff looks like dog food) labeled as Italian topping or Italian sausage. I first discovered it at Cherry Foodarama last year and the package said it was made by the JAKA Group. It was meant as a pizza topping but I had other ideas I was going to use it for pasta sauce instead of plain ground beef.
It was a successful experiment and I even brought a tray of pasta with the pizza topping in the sauce to a potluck party on New Year’s Day. Why I didn’t get to blog about it, I have no idea. At any rate, here I am almost a year later posting an entry about my pasta with pizza topping.
If the noodles look picture pretty, I have my daughter Sam to thank for. Or, perhaps, blame would be a better word. We were at Clark Field over the weekend, and had a blast with the Sale! Sale! Sale! at the duty-free shops and among the loot we brought home were five packages of pasta in shapes that I don’t normally find in local supermarkets. The pasta that I used for tonight’s dinner, however, was NOT on sale. At $2.68 for a 500-gram pack, it wasn’t cheap at all. But Sam was so enamored with the spirals that she put on her best Pretty Please! face and proceeded to dump the package into the grocery cart.
The recipe… For the pasta sauce, you will need 250 grams of Italian topping, 2 large white onions, 2 large green bell peppers, 700 grams of plump and juicy tomatoes, a ham bone, a cup and a half of red wine, 1 bay leaf, 5 tablespoonfuls of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, a heaping teaspoonful of pesto and about a tablespoonful of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. For garnish, some chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Peel and chop the onions. Dice the tomatoes. Core the bell peppers, remove the seeds and veins, and chop. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the thawed Italian topping, chopped bell peppers, and onions, and cook until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and ham bone. Stir. Pour in the red wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.
If you’re wondering why salt and pepper were not added at this point, it’s because both the Italian topping and the ham bone contain a lot of salt. The ham bone and Italian topping are already highly seasoned so add salt and pepper towards the end to make sure that the pasta sauce won’t turn out too salty. Meanwhile, cook 200 to 250 grams of pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.
After 45 minutes, the liquid should have been reduced considerably and the sauce should have started to thicken. Taste the sauce, add salt and pepper. Add sugar as well just for balance. Simmer for another 15 minutes or until the sauce is thick. Add the pesto, stir then turn off the heat. Remove the ham bone and bay leaf. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat every strand with sauce. Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with your favorite bread.