To Anna with love – A ma grand mère Anna


I think I had already mentioned it, but my family on my mother’s side came from Northern Italy. My grand mother Anna was a true Italian mama, and she left us with a number of wonderful original recipes. I wouldn’t dare assume that it comes from that one side of my family, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year :0)

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I put this recipe together the other day so I could get rid of some left overs. I do realize that some of us (me included) do not have access to good tomatoes these days, but we can always use cherry tomatoes. They always taste sweet even in Winter. As for our lucky Australian and South African friends: just go crazy! :0) Most Italian tomato based sauces require the use of tomato paste, but this means extra cooking time and added sugar. So let’s make this very simple and practical:P1000941_SnapseedIMG_7569 _SnapseedIMG_9717IMG_6388 _SnapseedIMG_7851_Snapseed

For 4 people:

  1. Caramelize 2 pounds of tomatoes: cut tomatoes in halfs or quarters, lay them in an oven dish and sprinkle (generously) with extra virgin olive oil. Put everything in the oven for about an hour at 400°F. Your tomatoes should have that beautiful caramel color when they are done. Most of the moisture should be gone…
  2. Color 2 shallots, a fist full of bacon and 1/2 a pound of ground beef in a pan with a bit of olive oil
  3. Add the candied tomatoes to the meat. Stir really well and squash everything with a fork. Add a glass of water and let everything simmer until the colour of the sauce turns to a darker red
  4. Add a big clove of garlic (thinly chopped), salt and pepper to taste
  5. Serve over spaghetti or linguini with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley

Bon appétit!!!IMG_7900_SnapseedIMG_7970

52 Comments Add yours

  1. Dina says:

    Mouthwatering post and very tasty photography, Stephane!
    All the best for 2014,
    et riktig godt nytt år!
    Warm greetings from The North
    The Fabulous Four,

    1. My French Heaven says:

      All the best to you my dear Dina!!! I am so so thankful for your readership and thoughtful comments over the past year…

  2. belocchio says:

    Oh, I am so in heaven- tomato heaven. I cupped my hands around those beautiful tomatoes and inhaled their gorgeous aroma. Nothing, simply nothing is better! Then to create the alchemy achieved in this pasta recipe … oh bliss!! This retired chef is one happy person. Virginia

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Dear Virginia, I am so glad you like this! I couldn’t live without tomatoes either 😉

  3. PK Read says:

    It’s been such a pleasure to follow your site and see your photography develop and change – your recipes are always a delight, and the images are quite splendid! When will you come out with a book, Stephane?

    Happy 2014 – may it be a year of joy, health and laughter (and good food, but that one is a given in your case).

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are so so kind dear Paula! When I look at my earlier photos, I myself see quite an evolution 🙂 I’m always trying to do better… Happy 2014 to you!!!

  4. Lisa says:

    This looks delicious! I can’t wait to try your recipe!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Let me know how it goes Lisa!

  5. Joyce says:

    Oh, how I love this! So simple and elegant. I’ll be trying it. I have a tomato sauce recipe from my Italian stepfather’s family, but it is a heavier Americanized version.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I like my tomato sauce dark and tasty. Sometimes tomato paste helps…

  6. Steve says:

    And by the way, the people who would never eat pasta are called Paleo followers (The Caveman Diet), and it is the #1 diet trend in the world. Poor fools. Reminds me of the conversation between patient and doctor:

    PT: Doctor, what’s the secret to a long life?
    Doctor: Don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t chase women.
    PT: Will this truly make me live longer?
    Doctor: No….but it will feel much longer!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Poor fools indeed 😉

  7. Steve says:

    Caramelizing is a great touch here. I’m not sure, I believe the quote is from Julia Child or perhaps her husband Paul: “No brown….no flavour”.

  8. Mona says:

    Bonne année et bonne santé ,Stéphane! E’ bella donna il suo grand mere anche il tuo photos!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you so much Mona! Happy New Year to you!

  9. This looks so delicious. mad my mouth water. Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are most welcome!

  10. Delightful!! Who doesn’t like a good pasta dish?? This really looks divine. Great photos and post, Stephane.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Richard. And yes, I have yet to meet a person on this planet who doesn’t like pasta. The day I do, I doubt we’ll have much to say to each other 😉

  11. What a gorgeous old family photo. Isn’t it wonderful to study the faces of those who went before us.
    This looks like a wonderful, rich sauce Stéphane! I love the idea of caramelising the tomatoes before adding them in – must create a lovely depth of flavour! Salute!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really does. Caramelized tomatoes are my stapple for everything: in soups, in sauces, as a condiment with any protein. They allow you to cook really healthy dishes like steamed fish and add a serious kick to it…

  12. A beautiful recipe, Stéfane, and just lovely photos. What a gorgeous tribute to your wonderful Italian Grand Mere Anna. My maternal great grandmother’s name was Anna – and I am her namesake. 🙂 She was an immigrant who came to the USA. I look forward to finding some excellent tomatoes to caramelize for this recipe. Best – Shanna

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is such a lovely name! Where did Anna immigrate from?

      1. She came from Sweden! 🙂 I wish I had some of her recipes. Wouldn’t that be neat? Maybe I will do some investigation…

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I’m sure there are fantastic Sweedish recipes out there… Meatballs maybe? Fish… 😉

          1. My French Heaven says:


  13. saucygander says:

    “Just go crazy!” – oh yes, we are! 😀

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I didn’t mean to say you guys were crazy. I meant to say “go wild”. But then I know you knew what I meant and that your next comment will be: “wild” – oh yes we are 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. saucygander says:

        And you would be right, again. We wild antipodeans…

        1. My French Heaven says:

          See; I knew it! 😉

  14. chef mimi says:

    These are beautiful photos Stephane!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you dear Mimi! I am going to the market tomorrow morning and will ask my fishmonger if he can get some frog legs for me… 😉

  15. Yum and yum! If I had to choose just one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be Italian. Love pasta (although there’s much more than just that.) I love your photo of the ends of the pasta. Never thought of that angle…literally.


    1. My French Heaven says:

      I agree, Italian food is amazing. For me, it would have to be Asian food first, then French and Italian come both in second place. Amrican food is a close third. There is nothing like a good rack of ribbs or American beef…

  16. I love the play of light in that last photo 🙂

  17. The pasta dish is gorgeous, simple and so delicious. Your grandmother Ann is beautiful also. We have similar lineage, my Father Italian, my Grandmother on my mothers side French. I love the vintage photo and that wonderful pasta, which I could eat every day also!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ahhhhhh pasta 😉 I think it is THE universal crowd pleaser…

  18. awoni3 says:

    Wow, that looks stunning… great photos too!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Natalia! Pasta is always quite easy and fun to photograph 🙂

  19. Francesca says:

    Hmmm. That looks really good. The caramelising of the tomatoes is a nice touch.

  20. Mmm buona la pasta casalinga della nonna Anna !

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I miss la nonna Anna so much! 🙂

  21. Rörschåch says:

    Fantastic Stephane! I have some gorgeous gluten-free pasta that this would work fantastically with. Check your instructions, please. You talk about sprinkling your tomatoes with olive oil, but no mention of salt. Your photo shows the tomatoes salted. 😀 Bonne annee!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      That’s great. Tell me how it goes. As for the salt in the recipe, I did forget it indeed, but I don’t always salt the tomatoes at this stage. The most important ingredient is the olive oil. Bonne année à toi!

  22. Mrs. Smith says:

    Genius idea to caramelize the tomatoes! As always, beautiful job, Stephane. I want to sink my teeth into this dish of pasta right now!!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I always have caramelized tomatoes in the fridge or in the freezer. They go with everything and can save any soup or sauce… Happy New Year Leilani!

  23. cathynd95 says:

    Sounds wonderful ! I froze many tomatoes this year. I am so happy I did! Just pull them out whenever I need them. I even got lazy and just froze some of them whole and just ler the semi defrost them core, deseed and peel.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Smart girl! I’m sure you grow fantastic tomatoes on your lovely farm. I can’t live without great tomatoes and Winter without them is hell. I always say I’ll make some preserves, and then I get too busy, and then the season is over…

  24. juliabarrett says:

    This recipe and the photos are to die for. Making it this weekend! Love your grand mere.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Let me know how it goes! This recipe is all about listening to your senses and intuition: is the color dark enough, do you feel it needs more olive oil or seasoning… Remember it’s about taste, not perfection. Enjoy!

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