My late nonna (on my mum's side) had a bit of an obsession with longneck beer bottles, but she wasn't an alcoholic. (Although, she did like the occasional homemade vino!)
She used the bottles to store her traditional passata sauce, as above. Passata is basically a fresh tomato puree, made at the summer's end, so you can get "a flash of summer warmth", in your winter meals (without the need for freezing the tomatoes). More on how it's made here.
I like to think of it as a 'base' to your pasta sauce, but if you don't have a nonna's handy collection to rely on, you could use a store-made pasta sauce instead, then add on from there...
What I love is that even though my grandma, Maria Felis, left us four years ago (aged 86), her passata is still feeding the next generation. My 18-month-old twin boys, as the below pics show, love their nonna's sauce, though they didn't get the chance to meet her in person.
For this pasta dish, my hubby, James Elsby (photographer extraordinaire), fried up some veggies from the garden first - eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes - along with store-bought onion and garlic. Then he chucked in the passata, basil and a little sugar (I helped a bit). This was all simmered for at least half an hour and seasoned to taste, then spread on top of the cooked pasta!
PS. This is not strictly Italian, but my Chinese friend Larissa Liu, who now lives in Adelaide, regularly holds weekend cooking classes at home via Meetup. I recently attended her class for Thai coconut sticky rice with mango, and thought it would be great for my book heroine to hold her own such class when she gets confident with her cooking! (Larissa also creates yummy cakes. Check out her site here.)
Here's the recipe for... LARISSA'S COCONUT STICKY RICE WITH MANGO!
200g (1 cup) glutinous rice
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons caster sugar (palm sugar is better)
Large pinch of salt
1 large mango, cheeks removed, peeled, thinly sliced
* Place rice in a bowl. Cover with cold water. Set aside overnight to soak. Drain. Steam, covered, for 25-30 minutes or until rice is tender and translucent, or microwave for 6-9 mins.
* Meanwhile, place coconut milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and coconut milk is heated through (do not boil).
* Transfer the rice to a large bowl. Add half the coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 mins to stand.
* Divide the rice among serving plates. Shape each portion into 2cm-thick disc. Top with mango slices. Spoon over the remaining coconut milk.
Finding my inner peasant...