Brilliant Idea Indeed!: Fusilli Lunghi with Tomato-Apple Sauce

If you have seen this blog, you will probably notice that I have quite a lot of tomato sauce recipes. From the marinara to the lentils, and the quick cooking pomodoro, there is just something comforting about sitting on the couch with a steaming bowl of pasta with fresh tomato sauce, all while watching an episode of Lidia’s Italy. Indeed, it was while watching that show when I came across this recipe for a Tomato-Apple Sauce. The recipe itself originally hails from Trentino-Alto Adige, which is the major apple producing region in the north of Italy. As a result, apples manage to permeate into all aspects of the local cuisine, and in her book Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, there are recipes for soups, salads, sauces, and of course deserts containing the region’s prized product.

In a break from the usual tradition, the tomatoes here are pureed until smooth, in order to allow the other textures of the dish to shine. You end up with soft bits of onion, the crunchy bite of celery, and the juicy shreds of apple with their delicately tart flavor. There is a salty plus from the grated pecorino cheese, and the fruity olive oil is always there in the background. Yes, I know this sounds like nothing more than a simple tomato sauce, but with cooking time of around 20 minutes and the opportunity to use extra apples lying around provides you with a very tasty pasta meal
indeed.

This dish is usually made with spaghetti, but wanting to use what was in my pantry, I opted for fusilli lunghi, which are essentially long fusilli noodles. When cooked to al dente, they have a pleasant feel in the mouth, and the grooves in the pasta scoop up the chunky sauce. I also served this dish with a zesty parsley pesto, which would not be typical of this region at all. It was just another effort by me to use up the parsley in the fridge because living in an Indian household, parsley is not a herb we use very often. Needless to say, I did enjoy the zippiness of the pesto and the kick of garlic it added to the mellow sauce. However, I urge you to go the purist route first and try the dish on its own. I think you will really appreciate how all the flavors meld together and create a luscious sauce that displays the brilliant ingenuity of the cuisine of Trentino-Alto Adige

Recipe: Fusilli Lunghi with Tomato-Apple Sauce

Recipe from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bastianich

  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (about 3 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound tart, firm apples (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1 pound fusilli lunghi (spaghetti, linguine, ziti, or rigatoni would also work here)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for the table

Method

  1. Pour the canned tomatoes into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. In a large skillet pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Then add the celery and onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened and beginning to caramelize.
  3. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and the salt and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the tomatoes are simmering, peel and core the apples and then grate them using a box grater.
  5. Add the shredded apples to the sauce and bring to a simmer again. Cook for about 15 minutes, till the sauce has reduced and thickened and the apples are tender. Stir occasionally.
  6. When the sauce is done, add the cooked pasta, and toss with the sauce till for about a minute or two, till the noodles are coated evenly. Turn off the heat and add the remaining oil and the cheese. Mix everything together and serve the pasta in bowls immediately with extra cheese  at the table.

Bonus Recipe: Parsley Sauce

Recipe from: Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bastianich

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Put the parsley leaves, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt in the food processor, and pulse several times to coarsely chop the leaves. Then with machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil till the sauce has been processed into a fine, loosely textured pesto. Use the sauce right away, or you can refrigerate it for a day, or freeze it for later use.

Cooking Notes:

  • The parsley sauce can be used to dress pasta or used as a fresh garnish for grilled vegetables and roasted vegetables. I can also see it as a delicious marinade for fish.
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