Nothing cures the holiday blues like researching your next adventure. I’m lucky to have mainland Europe on my doorstep. The concentration of countries and cultures literally blows my mind, and and as consequence, my efforts to go long-haul are often thwarted by the lure of short flight times and the guarantee of feeling deliciously far away from home.
We’re going back to Italy next year. It must be the most breathtakingly romantic, artistic and calorific place that I have ever visited. From slickness of Milan, to the wonderful waterways of Venice, beautiful Verona and the dizzying vistas of Lake Garda; Italy has something for everyone.
Italian people are great to watch, too. Grab an Aperol spritz, and take in the sophisticated suits who walk alongside weatherworn elders. I haven’t known a culture to wave their hands around more than me whilst talking, until I set foot in this incredible land.
I decided to cheer up a dreary Autumn weekend, by making an Italian-inspired sauce to tide us over a couple of mid-week dinners. I have used my own home-dried oregano, simply because I like growing herbs, but a shop-bought jar is just as good. You could swap the bacon for smoked paprika for a vegetarian variation.
To make a pan full, you’ll need:
A tin of tomatoes
4 garlic cloves crushed or finely chopped
Tsp dried oregano
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Half a red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 thick rasher of smoked bacon (it must be smoked)
Chilli flakes (optional)
Heat the olive oil and gently (don’t burn) the garlic for 1 minute. Add bacon and keep on a low-ish heat until bacon browns and releases fat, but doesn’t burn the garlic. Add onions, peppers and chilli flakes if using them. Gently cook for 5 minutes. Add tinned tomatoes and fill the can half with water, then throw that in too. Turn up the heat to boiling, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes (around 15 minutes in, give the sauce a good squidge with the back of the spoon, just to get the bacon and veg working together).
A final word on pasta. Don’t kill this sauce with SmartPrice 50p pasta, ok? I’m not saying break the bank, but better quality pasta not only tastes better, it is is also likely to be lower in starch (so easier on the old muffin top – seconds all round!).