Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s new book is here to help set the mood, providing you with the perfect dish to match a time, place or setting. Think of it as the culinary equivalent of stumbling upon a moody thriller on a rainy weekend afternoon. Bliss.
“Slow Sundays are for herbed roast chicken with buttery croutons and silky smooth panna cotta,” writes the beloved cook in the intro to Around the Table. “Eating outside means cheddar and chive scones and fresh spring salads. Friends coming by for afternoon coffee calls for a simple blackberry yoghurt loaf or comforting ginger cake with brown-sugar cream-cheese frosting.”
This is the third book for Busuttil Nishimura, after Ostro and A Year of Simple Family Food. Like those ones, it includes homey interpretations of dishes from Italy, the Mediterranean, Japan and beyond.
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It has 14 chapters set around different moods and themes, including weeknight saviours, cakes for coffee and slow Sundays. This is from the latter. “This is the kind of sauce I grew up eating, and it happily splutters away on the stove as you tend to other things – the perfect weekend dish,” says Busuttil Nishimura.
It has meat in it – Italian-style pork sausages, pork ribs and oyster blade steak – cooked long and slow in the tomato sauce, then removed and eaten separately with (Busuttil Nishimura suggests) a leafy salad or vegetables. “The sauce is then used to coat the pasta, which can be served as a first course or eaten on a completely different day,” she says.
In her house, they add in peas at the end. She says it might seem like you’re making a lot, but it’s important to stick with these quantities because the volume ensures the meat stays tender. “Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for three days or frozen for later use.”
Serves 4 (plus leftovers)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
500g pork ribs, cut into groups of three ribs
500g oyster blade steak, cut into three pieces
500g Italian-style pork sausages, each cut into three pieces
1 onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
150ml red wine
1.2kg canned whole peeled tomatoes
2 fresh bay leaves
Handful of basil, stalks and leaves, plus extra leaves to serve
320g tortiglioni or any pasta of your choice
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve
Begin by warming the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Season the ribs and oyster blade with salt and add to the pan, along with the sausages. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides for about 3 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Reduce the heat to low and add the onion and celery to the pan. Gently cook for 7–8 minutes, until soft and just beginning to colour. Increase the heat to medium and pour in the red wine, scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift any caramelised bits.
Add the tomatoes, 500ml of water and the bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Return the meat to the pan and stir to coat, then add the basil and once again bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 2–3 hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce is rich. Add some water from time to time, if the sauce seems to be drying out.
Remove the meat from the sauce and keep warm. This can be served as a second course with a nice leafy salad.
Ladle about half the sauce into a large frying pan over medium heat. Reserve the remaining sauce for another meal.
Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 250ml of the cooking water, then transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Toss to coat, adding some of the cooking water to help slacken the sauce. You can also ladle in a little more sauce, if you prefer it saucier. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and extra basil leaves.
This is an extract from Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum, $44.99, photography by Armelle Habib. Buy it here.