How to sauce Italian food

sauce, lovely sauce....
lovely sauce….but not everywhere

Italians have their own way to use a sauce. In fact, as I have explained previously, they use very little. You will probably ask: why so dry?
Like everywhere else, people’s relation to food has changed very much in the last few decades. In the past, cooking food in a lot of sauce was a way for large families to increase portion sizes. In the Center and South of Italy  meat was expensive and not everybody could afford a prime cut. Sauce could be eaten with pasta or bread to fill the stomach. Then, the family would share the small amount of protein that flavored the sauce.  Our  splendid tomatoes were used as a blanket ingredient to tenderize the meat and to enhance the taste of the food cooked in it. Sometimes only eggs or vegetables.
Still, it is  amazing that a largely peasant population has managed to create, despite of the lack of means or may be because of it, one of the best cuisines in the world.
Modern Italians have developed a preference for the pure taste of high quality ingredients simply combined and quickly cooked. You do not need a sauce on a first-quality grilled beef fillet. May be some herbs and a drizzle of that divine olive oil, a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar.  A salad  or steamed vegetable with a lemony dressing provides the moisture. A few morsels of fresh bread – plain so it does not overpower the other ingredients – provides the starch. There is no dessert, but always fresh fruits. So the food is not dry because it is accompanied and followed  by vegetables and fruits.
Sweets (dolci) and complicated traditional dishes –  rich in sauces and condiments – are generally consumed during holidays, parties or  outings. For the same principle of simplicity, sweets are served with no or very little cream, sauce or scoops of ice cream. Ice cream -gelato – is generally not meant for the end of a meal, but for strolling along some promenade surrounded by some impossibly old palazzi. Main purpose is to show off nice new clothes. That’s how we are.


  1. You know what? I am in complete agreement with you. Which is a compliment to me, because it means I associate with the best.
    Italian Americanism is responsible for covering the world with tomato sauce. I get a tummy ache from just thinking about the acid. We learned it from our nonne, because, as you said, it was the way of feeding large groups without spending a lot of money.
    But we never developed it further, staying with that tradition. Immigrant Americans have a way of holding on to tradition with both hands, as tight as possible, and get shocked when they come to the home country and find things are not quite the way they were in 1923…..

  2. ahh Diana! I do love tomato dearly, but I can’t eat it every day and surely not that sour stuff. My father of course, can glob a plate of tagliatelle al ragu every day of his life. I am so happy that ta least in this Italians have become a little less traditional!

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