in which we savor a big night

Sometimes you find a small, unexpected treasure and it stays with you for a long time.  A book you find in a waiting room or airport or maybe a movie you never cared to see but coincidentally happens to be the only watchable thing on as you surf by.  It captures your attention somehow and is exactly what you needed at that particular moment.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this little pleasure years ago, but since then it has become a favorite that I haven’t tired of yet.  I’m talking about Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s jewel of a movie, Big Night.  Every time I see it, there’s something more I didn’t catch the last time. But I warn you: do not watch this with an empty stomach!  The food is beyond beautiful – so much so, I immediately had to have the cookbook.

The movie inspired cookbook, Cucina & Famiglia, is another gem and is one of the most used books in my library. I’ve given the pair (DVD & book) as wedding gifts on more than one occasion.  Unfortunately, they’re not both so easy to come by anymore, making them even more special when you do find them.

The book features little stories introducing each recipe and chapter. These stories each offer a glimpse into the lives of the Tropiano, Tucci and Scappin families and recall fond Italian immigrant food  memories. Plus, the recipes are good. Really good.  I’ve not cooked my way through the entire book yet, but I’m getting there. Surprisingly the one recipe I have not made is timpano. It’s impressive and a rightful star in the movie; I’ll leave that one for you.

As my tomatoes are forming on their vines, soaking up all that summer sunshine needed to ripen them into their undisputed place as garden royalty, there’s one thing I am really, really waiting for.  A little impatiently, I might add.  If I had to choose only one tomato-y recipe to bring summer to life all year long, it would be this recipe for uncooked fresh tomato sauce.

This recipe makes four servings, but I had no trouble bumping it up and freezing it in one cup batches. Looking at the chicken scratch I wrote on the recipe, apparently I used 24 pounds of tomatoes last year and today I know it was not nearly enough.

What a treat to whip a container of this out of the freezer for a quick, fresh pasta, pizza or bruschetta that tastes like the tomatoes were literally just picked warm from the summer sun. The only thing that can improve it is home-made pasta and a really good Parmesan or pecorino. Don’t chef this one up until you’ve made it once just this way – it is perfection in its simplicity.

Eating a steaming bowl while looking at a foot of snow on the ground outside is almost as good as hitting the lottery. Almost.

Home-made pasta, last summer’s uncooked fresh tomato sauce from the freezer and some good quality Parmesan or pecorino – perfection in its simplicity!
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