Il Sugo.

Serves 3-4.
Recipe by Fred Oxby.

The Italians in Bari call this sauce "Il Sugo", literally "The Sauce", and claim that only their grandmother can make it right. Recipes differ but they all have one thing in common: simplicity. It's important to resist adding anything extra to this recipe, because when made well, this sauce speaks for itself. Although Italians do not traditionally eat pasta as an evening main course, it is enjoyable at pretty much any time of the day.

Ingredients:
1 bottle or 2 cartons of tomato passata (or chopped tomatoes pulped with a fork)
2 large cloves of garlic
½ a small, white onion
A shot (25 ml) of dark rum
Parmesan cheese or Gran Padana (to taste)
Olive oil
Salt, pepper and caster sugar

Chop the onion as finely as possible and fry in ample olive oil. The finer the chopping of the onions, the better they'll disintegrate into the sauce. Next, gently crush the garlic cloves on the flat of a big knife. You only want them to crack slightly, and they should remain whole throughout the cooking process.

Once the onion has softened for a couple of minutes, add the passata. Overestimate the amount you need (a bottle serves 3-4 people). You don't want to be adding any later as it will taste bitter. The key to this sauce is letting the passata develop during the cooking. It tastes so much better after 30 minutes than 20, so it should all cook for the same amount of time. Add a liberal shot of dark rum, salt, black pepper and a large pinch of caster sugar. The more experience you have of this sauce, the more of a feel you will get for the balance of these seasonings. Taste constantly to adjust to your personal preference.

Bring the heat on the hob right down and slowly cook the sauce for between 30 and 40 minutes. As it cooks, grate cheese into it every ten minutes. Don't grate too much in at any one time - you want it to blend completely into the sauce. The longer this cooks for, the richer it will be. In Italy, it's not uncommon for this sauce to slowly bubble away for several hours.

Once happy with the flavour, remove the garlic cloves (they've served their purpose) and eat with your favourite pasta. I recommend Orecciette - named after its small, ear-like shape - and a bit of basil for decoration. Turn this sauce into a spicy Arrabiata by adding chopped chillies.

Italian Lamb.

Serves 2-4.
Recipe by Freddie Bates.

Ingredients:
2 Lamb shoulders or necks
1 bunch of oregano
1 large sprig of rosemary
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
1 bulb garlic, cut in half
1 onion, cut into eighths
1 bottle of red wine
100ml of balsamic vinegar
Small handful pink peppercorns
Butter
Seasoning to taste

Get a large mixing bowl and place all ingredients inside, reserving a small handful of oregano. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours (up to 24 hours where possible). At halfway point, turn lamb.

When marinating is complete, take the lamb out and put the liquor into a large casserole dish. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and seal in a frying pan with some oil. Remove from the pan and pat with kitchen towel to remove excess oil. Now place the lamb in the dish with the liquor, cover with a lid or foil and cook on the middle shelf of the oven at 200°C for two hours, basting every half hour.

Cook for a little longer if not tender enough. You want the bone to be coming out with very little effort when teasing it. Do not pull it out when done. Simply remove carefully from the liquor and cover with foil. The skin should be nice and crisp with meltingly tender meat underneath.

Strain the liqour into a saucepan but keep the celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Place veg into a blender - deroot the onion and squeeze garlic from skin - and add a ladel of the liquor. Blend to a thick paste and add to the saucepan with the rest of the liquor. Reduce on a high heat until the consistency is like double cream, then strain through a fine sieve.

Place back in pan and when warm again, add a small knob of butter. Place lamb in the centre of a serving dish, pour gravy and scatter some chopped oregano all over. Serve with roast courgette, squash, pepper and some crusty bread. A proper Italian roast to take those blues away.

photos by sara hill.
cookery by freddie bates.