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X Italian Sauces
Basic "White" Pasta Sauce with Olive Oil and Garlic (Southern Italian style)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any tiime
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sliced air-dried Italian sausage [If using fresh pork belly, sausage is not necessary -- it's one or the other]

1/2 pound diced fresh pork belly, cut into pieces (about 1 1/2 inches long X 3/4 inch wide)

2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 dried sweet red peppers, chopped up into small pieces about 1 inch long by 1/2 wide (OR crushed between one's fingers)


about 2 teaspoons salt
about 1 teaspoon pepper

2 or 3 bay leaves

about 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
about 2 teaspoons dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh
rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

1 teaspoon hot red chillies (optional)


Peel and chop onion.

Peel garlic. Chop.

Version I. [If not using pork belly] Heat up olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Sautee till golden.

Version II. [If using pork belly] Cut up pork belly pieces. Over medium heat, render some of the fat of the pork belly.

Add chopped garlic and onion, and dried sweet red pepper.

Version III. If using Italian air-dried sausage, add it to the sauce.

Add seasonings.

Add any vegetables (if using). Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.

For Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.

Cook pasta.


Toss 1/4 of the sauce with the pasta, reserve the rest of the sauce to add to individual bowls.

Season with fresh herbs.


In North American culinary circles "white sauce" generally refers to Northern Italy's cream-based sauces such as Alfredo. However, in Southern Italy most people think of "white sauce" as that which does not contain any fresh tomatoes or tomato paste. Well, at least they did so in the 1930s when my mother was growing up in the small town of Casacalenda, Molise. Prior to World War II this style of sauce was combined with various vegetables such as chick peas, white beans, peas, and rapini. Some cooks added some of the water in which the vegetables were cooked to the tossing sauce. Others did not. Prior to World War II "white sauce" had less status than "red" sauce. "White sauce" was associated with peasant cookery and anything that was associated with that was looked down on. It was perceived as "poor people's cooking" and therefore not very good. Often, even those who enjoyed the flavor of the pasta dishes that used "white sauces" complained that it was food only pigs should have to eat. Nowadays, many professional cooks use Southern-style "white sauces" and rave about them.... Photo: by the contributor.

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