With our extended winter this year (spring is finally springing in our neck of the woods this week!), I found myself craving comfort foods to help me get over the cold-weather blues. And for that very same reason, I decided to focus on an American classic for this week’s recipe – one that some might consider a quintessential comfort food. Believe it or not, it’s very hard to find any sort of origin or history around the combination of sausage, peppers and onion. It’s a staple food of Fenway Park, so it must be a Boston thing, right? But others associate it with NYC, and still more with Chicago. All I can say with certainty is that it’s of Italian-American descent, with fairly deep roots, and an easy way to make a quick delicious meal.
The word “sausage” originally comes from the Latin word salsus, which means “salted.” There is evidence of it being enjoyed in Italy as much as 2,000 years ago. That it has a long culinary existence isn’t so surprising; sausage is a perfect way of making sure every bit of the animal is used, and deliciously so. Here in the US, the words “Italian sausage” imply a seasoning based on fennel seeds and anise, and can be sold as either mild or spicy.
Like most residents of planet Earth, I’m pizza crazy. I’d like to say that my love affair started with those pesky Ninja Turtles, but I have a feeling that I was addicted well before the heroes in a half shell became popular. When adopting Paleo, I was probably worried about a lack of pizza the most, and after re-introducing dairy I tried all sorts of things, from frozen GF crusts to eggplant pizzas. Finally, I hunkered down and developed a gluten and grain free pizza crust of my own, and after several failed attempts, I’m happy to say that you will love this pizza.
Do I really need to provide a food history for pizza? Okay, since you asked so nicely. Pizza is a food first traced to Ancient Greece, when they took bread and covered it with oil and cheese (this is also the base for Pita bread). Italy is credited for adding tomatoes to pizza following their introduction from the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries. Interestingly, the combination of tomatoes and cheese wasn’t popular for hundreds of years, until the famous Pizza Margherita (tomatoes, cheese, and basil) incident – wherein the combination was served to Queen Margherita in 1889 to represent the Italian flag.
Pizzerias existed in the United States at the turn of the century, but it was only popular with Italian immigrants. Soldiers returning from the European campaign of World War II raved about pizza, and it became the sensation it is now almost overnight.
Have you looked at the ingredients of canned tomato/spaghetti sauces lately? You’d think they would be very simple, but surprisingly they have some hidden and unnecessary ingredients. Even Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce has soybean oil in it, as well as parmesan cheese; I don’t find the cheese offensive per se, but does it have to be in there? So, I decided it was time to share an easy, tasty sauce of my own, which you can use as the foundation to any tomato-based sauce.
Although tomatoes arrived in Europe from the New World in the 16th century, tomato-based sauces didn’t start appearing on record until the 1790s. There is a staggering amount of variation to this seemingly simple sauce, with names to boot: In the US, marinara can mean just a tomato-based sauce, but in Italy it often refers to a seafood dish. The term tomato sauce also refers to any tomato-based sauce, except in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where it refers to ketchup (pasta sauce is the proper term there). Neapolitan is a meatless tomato sauce, linked to southern Italy. A ragù is a tomato sauce with meat (often referred to as bolognese sauce outside of Italy). Finally, call me old-fashioned, but I just like to call it spaghetti sauce.