Emiko Davies shares a recipe from Tortellini at Midnight

One of my favourite cookbooks is Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed (1986). It's part cookbook, part memoir (where she shares stories from her experiences “living in the wild” throughout the Mediterranean and recipes that speak of the place from where she plucked them), part foraging handbook and part guide to a way of life that has practically vanished.

It was serendipitous that I read Patience Gray's description of this beautiful summer ritual for “salsa doppia” while visiting Grottaglie in the province of Taranto, a small, somewhat unglamorous town that has been known for centuries for its artisan ceramic production. Gray describes the oversized, shallow salt-glaze dishes typical of Grottaglie's ceramics – a communal serving bowl where the pasta for the entire family was “poured, dressed and then despatched, each member attacking it with a fork.” I had just seen a stack of these ancient dishes in the beautiful ceramic museum-bottega, Casa Vestita, some pieced back together, the large cracks running through them like creases on the palm of your hand.
 Although the ancient custom of eating from the same bowl has now disappeared, Gray's salsa doppia, which involves layers of homemade, bottled tomato sauce, pecorino cheese, orecchiette (homemade if you can, and if not, your favourite short pasta) and just-picked fresh tomatoes (which in Gray's book are quickly cooked but I prefer to leave raw), is one worth repeating – I like to do the layering in a pretty bowl to present at the table and then portion out this summery pasta dish into bowls.
  
Pasta Con La Salsa Doppia 
(pasta with double tomato sauce)
Serves 4
3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely sliced
400 grams tomato passata (puree)
handful of fresh basil leaves
320 grams of short dried pasta such as orecchiette or penne
40 grams pecorino, ricotta salata or parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper
 
Combine the chopped fresh tomato with the garlic, about half of the olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Stir well and set it aside to marinate so that the juices are drawn out of the tomatoes.
 
Put on a large pot of water to boil.
 
Prepare a tomato sauce by gently heating the onion slices in the rest of the olive oil with a generous pinch of salt. I like to use a wide pan with curved sides and a bit of depth. Over low heat, it should take about 5-7 minutes for the onions to begin to sizzle and soften without colouring – add a splash of water or turn down the heat if they begin to brown. Add the passata together with about 80ml of water and a few whole basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.
 
Add salt to the boiling water and tip in the pasta.
Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain.
 
In a large, shallow serving bowl, layer: half of the pasta, half of the grated cheese, the tomato sugo, followed by the rest of the pasta, the rest of the cheese and the fresh tomato mixture with all the delicious juices. Top with as many fresh basil leaves as you please and present it to the table like this.

When serving at the table, give the whole thing a bit of a stir so that each portion gets a bit of everything.

Emiko Davies is a Food Writer based in Florence.
She's half Japanese and half Australian, who visited Florence on whim, fell in love with a local and the rest is history.



Emiko wears our Classic Houndstooth 

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