Spaghetti al Pomodoro
1.5 kg vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and coarsely diced
1 onion, peeled and left whole 1 stalk celery, cleaned and left whole
1 carrot, cleaned and left whole
6 basil leaves, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil Pinch sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
500 g spaghetti
To cook the spaghetti al dente, fill a large pot with cold water and place over high heat. When the water comes to a boil add a handful of coarse salt and the pasta, without breaking it.
When done, remove the pasta pot from the stove (perhaps even a minute sooner than the cooking time suggested on the package). Drain in a colander and add the pasta to the sauce with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss well and garnish with a few leaves of basil.
Start by cooking the tomatoes in a large pan with lid over a high heat, with the onion, the celery, and the carrot for about 10 minutes to soften the vegetables.
Remove the lid and keep the boil for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. The tomato sauce is ready when, as they say in Naples, “pipiotta,” in other words when the bubbles are no longer made of water but rather small craters of sauce. Remove from the stove, remove the largest vegetable chunks, and allow the sauce to cool.
A stainless steel food mill—the hand-operated type—is necessary once the cooking is complete, in order to transform the tomato sauce and pieces of vegetables into a puree of the right consistency. It will also remove the bitter skins and tomato seeds.
Add a drizzle of olive oil and adjust bitterness with a pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
Mum also loved pasta all’amatriciana. The classic version is prepared by cutting some guanciale (cheek lard) into small strips and browning in a small skillet until crisp. If guanciale is not available use pancetta or bacon. Add to the pureed sauce and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Mum’s version was lighter; she used prosciutto crudo instead of guanciale, and once it was browned, she blotted the fat using paper towels.
Choosing Tomatoes: The first thing is to find the tomatoes. There are no set rules: the right tomato is simply the one that makes the best sauce (salad tomatoes are another thing). In Italy we usually pick San Marzano tomatoes, but in the right season you can probably find something appropriate in a shop around the corner. In Switzerland, for example, I discovered surprisingly good tomatoes from Berne.
If possible, however, grow your own. The tomato plant is not very demanding and can be grown easily in a pot (or large tin) on a terrace or a sunny windowsill, with very little hassle.
Taken from Audrey at Home: Memories of my mother’s kitchen, a unique biography with recipes, recollections and anecdotes.
If you love free recipes, sign up to our CookPerk email here: www.cookperk.com.