Assisi is one of the holiest places in the world for Catholics, being the birthplace of St. Francis, among the most beloved of all saints. The town is dominated by the Basilica of St. Francis, which attracts pilgrims from all over the world. The interior of the Basilica is covered with brilliantly coloured murals, that are stunningly beautiful illustrations of scenes from the life of the great saint.
The town of Assisi is much older than the Basilica, dating back to the Roman era. As in many other places in Italy, medieval churches and castles have been built on the ruins of Roman temples and amphitheaters, very often merging later buildings with the remains of much older structures. Wandering through the narrow lanes of the town it is hard to know which era you are walking through.
The slopes of the hills surrounding Assisi are covered with fields and vineyards, where monks have tended their crops for centuries. The calm beauty of the landscape adds to the serenity of the town and is a fitting memorial to St. Francis, who loved nature and animals so much that he is said to have preached to the birds!
The produce from the farms finds its way to the kitchens of the restaurants in Assisi, who create an amazing variety of dishes. Our lunch at a small, but well known restaurant, called Osteria Piazzetta dell'Erba was the best we've had in all of Italy! Faced with all this bounty we could only invoke the prayer of another famous saint - St. Augustine - who is said to have exclaimed "Lord give me continence, but not just yet"!
This is the sauce to make when you have lots of lovely vine ripened summer fresh tomatoes. Combined with the heady aroma of fresh basil, there is no better summer pasta than this one. If you're feeling decadent, throw in some whipping cream for a richer sauce! Serve with Grilled lamb chops for a meatier option.
Check out my Lamb Ragu with papardelle for another delicious recipe to try out!
Pasta With Fresh Tomato Vegetable Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup each, chopped small: eggplant, zucchini, sweet red pepper
2 lb (about 10) finely chopped fresh, ripe, juicy plum tomatoes (peeled if desired)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb uncooked penne pasta
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup each: chopped fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, warm oil in deep skillet over medium high heat.
Add onions and garlic, saute 5-7 min until softened and lightly browned.
Add eggplant, zucchini and red peppers. Saute 10 min until vegetables are softened and lightly browned.
Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Remove skillet from heat, let sauce rest 10 min for tomatoes to soften.
Add the pasta to pot of boiling water, reduce heat to medium and cook until pasta is just al dente, about 12 min. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Add hot pasta, butter, basil and Parmesan cheese to sauce in skillet. Mix well, then let pasta rest 5 min to absorb some of the sauce. If tomatoes aren't juicy enough, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to create more of a sauce. Serve right away with additional Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.