Creamy tomato sauce with sage

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I’m really struggling with the weather at the moment, and all the jokes about a Swedish person being used to the cold are so getting old. Fact is, I am not. In fact, most Swedish people (at least from my end of the country) hate the cold. And even though the winters are long and cold, the well-insulated houses help a lot!

Anyway, those cold windy days when life feels utterly miserable there are a few things that could cheer you up. Friends, wine and food. All three together is of course the best combination, but any of the three on its own can help too.

One evening when I actually had planned to make potato gnocchi but ran out of steam after walking home in the freezing wind from the tube, I settled for what I would have served my gnocchis with; a creamy, warming tomato sauce.

We all know that a great flavour combination is tomato and basil, but with sub-zero temperatures outside that felt way too summery. Instead I opted for another herb that feels just as Italian – sage.

I see this as my winter version of tomato sauce. And that splash of cream feels necessary to fight the cold too.

Creamy tomato sauce with sage, serves 3-4 

1 tin (ca 400 g) good quality chopped tomatoes 

1/2 tin water

ca 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp soft brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp dried sage (or about 1 tbsp fresh, chopped)

1/2 tsp each of oregano, rosemary and lovage

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 garlic clove, grated

salt, black pepper

50 ml single cream

Pour tomatoes and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Let it reduce and thicken. Add vinegar, herbs, garlic and sugar. Cook until it feels thick enough. Add the cream. Season to taste with salt, sugar and black pepper. 

Serve with spaghetti and plenty of grated Parmesan or Pecorino.

Pig’s cheek ragu with white wine and sage

When you have friends staying over the slowcooker becomes your best friend. It feels a lot safer leaving that on the oven (plus it uses way less energy) and it is so nice to let dinner cook itself when you’re busy socialising with friends.

While we had a day out in Canterbury, the slowcooker made this lovely pork cheek ragu with white wine and sage for us. All you need to do when you get home is to reduce and season the sauce, shred the meat and mix it with the sauce and cook some pasta.

Pig’s cheek ragu with white wine and sage, serves 4-6

spaghetti or tagliatelle, cooked al dente

The ragu – step 1:

1 kg pig’s cheeks

400 g chopped tomatoes

150 ml water

3 stems sage

1 garlic clove

150 ml dry white wine

The ragu – step 2:

salt, black pepper

pinch of sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

To serve:

grated parmesan

Place all ingredients for step 1 in the slowcooker, turn on low heat and leave for approx 8 hours. Remove the meat from the pot and reduce the sauce to half and season with the ingredients for step 2. Pull the meat apart and mix with the sauce. Serve.

Cannellini bean spread

Another crostini topping is this cannellini spread with sage. It is the Italian cousin of hummus but tastes very different.

I added sage, garlic and lemon juice to make it fresh and add to the Italian feel of it. Mix it together the day before and leave in fridge overnight for the flavours to really develop.

Just like the chicken liver mousse, we served this in a mini copper pan and the crostinis on the side so each guest could help themselves.

Cannellini bean paste, serves 4

400 g canned cannellini beans

1/2 lemon, the juice

5 sage leaves

1 small garlic clove, pressed

salt, white pepper

mild olive oil

Rinse the beans and drain. Mix together with the lemon juice, garlic and sage, add olive oil until desired consistency. Season. Refridgerate overnight.