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It’s no secret that I am Italian and I like to cook.

The question I am most frequently asked is, “Would you share your tomato sauce recipe with me?” My answer is always the same: “Of course, but it might not be what you think!”

When most people think of Italian tomato sauce, they envision a white haired lady stirring a bubbling pot of thick, rich red sauce for hours, then ladling it over homemade pasta. This is the kind of sauce my grandmother makes. Her grandmother made it before her. I can make it too but I almost never do. Instead, my go-to sauce takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and my family loves it so much they request it on a weekly basis.

The key to any good recipe is fresh ingredients. The tastier and more natural the components of your sauce, the better the final sauce will be. Just because you can get it in a can or box doesn’t mean you should.
Here’s my Pasta Pomodoro recipe:

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
• 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 (10.75 ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth, if you can make your own, do it!
• freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lightly sauté the onions and garlic. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and broth. Simmer five minutes to reduce sauce, then mix with your favourite pasta (ours is thick tagliatelle), basil, pepper and cheese. Enjoy!

This is the kind of simple sauce in which you can taste each of the ingredients, the tang of the good quality, thick, aged balsamic, the earthy garlic and the licorice-like basil.

So take my advice, you don’t have to stand over that pot anymore. Spend that meal-prep time securing the best ingredients you can. Then spend the time you save relaxing and enjoying your meal with the loved ones you cooked it for.

Alana Marchetto

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The other day my dad took part in Facebook’s The Food List Challenge. He has eaten 44 out of the 100 foods and drinks listed. He’d eaten biscuits and gravy and barbecued ribs but not truffles or morel mushrooms. My eight-year-old daughter felt that despite being 47 years his junior, it was “inconceivable!” she’s sampled more foods than her grandfather. My tiny foodie has already had the chance to sample foods like paella, octopus and stuffed zucchini flowers.

She was dead set on rectifying matters, starting with a trip to seafood restaurant Big Fish. Just ordering appetizers my dad scored two more check marks. The frogs’ legs (above, second from top) were delicately breaded and fried, still juicy when you bit into the thigh. These are my daughter’s favourite dish, and I loved watching the staff watch in awe as she polished off a plateful. I preferred the fish tacos (above, third from top), which come garnished with an addictive mango salsa.

Dad scored one more point for the crab cake served with his entrée of blackened New York steak and blue crab cake with red pepper jelly. The steak came exactly to his specifications with a wild rice and black bean pilaf on the side. We also ordered the organic butter chicken and lobster (above, bottom) and the feature fish of the day, pan-seared salmon in a brown butter sage sauce with a potato and wild mushroom hash (above top). The salmon was fork tender and in no way overdone. The sauce and mushrooms were a delicate balance of sweet and earthy.

We ended the meal with the restaurant’s ever-changing trio of sorbet (the night’s flavours were mango, lemon-lime and mango mint). I splurged and also had the fallen chocolate soufflé with raspberry compote, vanilla bean cream and caramel drizzle.

On the way out the door my daughter high-fived her grandfather for inching his food list total towards 50 and he promised to return the favour and introduce her to spaetzle and sauerkraut.

Alana Marchetto

Big Fish
1112 Edmonton Trail N.E.
Calgary, Alberta
403-277-3403
Big Fish Dockside on Urbanspoon