A lot has been written on the subject of food in film and with the exception of Burnt, the nitty gritty of cooking in general, translates very well onto the big screen. Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas for instance, is a fantastic example. Sure, it is a fairly brutal and violent portrayal of the Mob, or the Italian mafia in America. However, when it comes to displaying the intricacies, techniques and pure damn passion behind Italian food, it is second to none. Garlic cloves should be sliced to thin precision with razor blades, so that they ooze and melt into the pan; red wine must always be available to accompany a feast; and you just have to keep an eye on the tomato sauce, making sure that it is being constantly stirred, over a long period of time. Even when the FBI are hovering in helicopters over your house. If you haven’t got a clue as to what I am talking about, you should probably watch the film but the point I think I am trying to make, is that whilst Italian food is often simple, time and attention to detail is paramount.
So it goes without saying then, that when making the tomato sauce to go with these very moreish and filling meatballs, snuggled into soft sub rolls, make you sure that you prepare it well in advance and not during the football this weekend. It’s one thing to go running into the front room, holding a spoon and dribbling rich marinara all over the carpet when someone shouts ‘GOOAAAAL!’ But if you don’t take the time beforehand, well you’ll just end up with a sauce that is reedy and thin and without soul. Two hours are needed minimum, to slowly cook all those sweet flavours out. And if you can leave it overnight to steep and stew, then even better.
To pair up and instead of red wine, I’ve picked an unusual beer that hails from the central region of Italy and not too far from Rome; namely Cortigiana, a saison from Birra del Borgo. These pale, amber and fruity ales are often associated with the mighty beer brewing country that is Belgium. An easy going, slightly lactic or sour summertime treat, to be quaffed in the open squares of Ghent and Bruge. That some breweries in Italy are also starting to produce some very fine ones of their own is testimony to the exploding craft beer scene going on over there. There are over 600 microbreweries in that boot-shaped land now, which is pretty amazing. The great thing about this particular saison is that it has a slightly herby note going on in the background, which compliments the woody thyme, sage and rosemary that has gone into the meatballs. Hmmm, meatballs.
If you fancy grabbing a bottle then you will mostly likely have to take a trip to a specialist beer shop, if you have one near you. Most supermarkets do a generic Italian cooking lager, which would be fine for the game. But if you can take the time and effort to find a bottle of Cortigiana, or a farmhouse beer that would be similar, then do seek it out.
And I can’t repeat this enough, take your time over the tomato sauce. Because scrubbing red stains off your brand new Axminster is no fun at all. Mama mia, it really isn’t.