A good tomato sauce to coat pasta can never, ever, ever ever, ever come out of a jar. I think once we have reconciled ourselves with this fact, we can begin to understand why pasta al pomodoro (pasta in tomato sauce) remains one of the classic dishes in Italian cooking.
After repeated, incessant requests for pasta in tomato sauce by my daughter, I finally succumbed and made it tonight for dinner (even though it seems like I make it every other week!!). Pasta al pomodoro is her all time favourite meal.
For so simple a dish that comprises of only two components – pasta and tomato sauce – it is surprisingly easy to get wrong. Over cook the pasta and you end up with mushy baby food. Use jarred tomato sauce and you end up with something that could have been so much better had you made the sauce from scratch. It really is not that hard.
Here is a simplest of guideline: in a saucepan, saute a couple of garlic cloves (either minced or smashed is fine) in olive oil until lightly golden, throw in a small bunch of basil leaves and stir them about in the garlic oil. Next, open a can of plum tomatoes (remember, you get what you pay for) and pour the contents into the saucepan. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, breaking the tomatoes into little bits with a wooden spoon. When the time is up, season with black pepper and salt to taste, et voila, a delicious homemade tomato sauce is at your disposal to coat some perfectly cooked pasta.
You can add in chopped onion instead of garlic; grate a carrot into the sauce for extra fiber and natural sweetness; vary the herbs – thyme, oregano, rosemary are all good options; use dried herbs if you do not have fresh. The possibilities are endless.
So, for the kids, it was good ol’ pasta al pomodoro. But for the adults, it was pasta all’arrabbiata! My husband and I dolloped a generous spoonful of peperoncini (that we buy by the truckload from Terroni) in our bowls and lapped up the fiery heat the chiles steeped in oil brought to the pasta.
Ciao for now, we’ll be having you for dinner two weeks later…..