This dish was pictured on the cover of the May 2011 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. It literally translates as “Pasta with Tomato Sauce” (thank you, GoogleTranslate). When I saw it, I desired it. When I desired it, I wrote it into my menu plan. When I wrote it into my menu plan, I purchased the necessary ingredients. And when I purchased . . . okay, let’s cut the the chase: I made it the other week. The result of my efforts: a silky, smooth, flavorful sauce that coats every strand of spaghetti. Somehow it manages to have both that fresh edge and also a subtle depth.
Now I’m not one to speak out against jarred spaghetti sauce–heavens knows that I always have a jar on hand to make emergency batches of Arroz a la Cubana. However, when you plop pre-made sauce on a pile of spaghetti, let’s be realistic: it ends up in a watery pile. Have you noticed that? The puddles of liquid that pool at the bottom of the plate? It’s kind of gross. The pasta and sauce have issues getting together.
This pasta does NOT have this issue. The sauce and the pasta become one. You can’t take a bite of one without getting the other. And together, they will conquer the galaxy.
If you’re just eating the pasta, it serves 3, but if you have bread and/or a salad, it stretches to 4 easily.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, pureed
1 pinch kosher salt
3 large sprigs basil
12 oz spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup pasta water (reserved)
2 TBS cubed cold butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Mince the onion very finely.
In a 12” skillet with deep sides, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.
Add the minced onion and cook for about 12 minutes (until softened) stirring frequently.
While the onion is cooking, puree the can of whole tomatoes . . .
. . . and mince the garlic.
You’ll notice I added a few more cloves to the mix after that initial shot of all the ingredients together. Adding more garlic is a compulsion with me, and I can’t be expected to control my urges in that area.
Add the minced garlic to the onion . . .
. . . and cook for 4-5 more minutes, still stirring frequently.
Add the pinch of red pepper flakes and stir for 1 minute.
By now it smells so good in the kitchen that I’ll totally understand if you start weeping uncontrollably.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the pureed tomatoes and a pinch of kosher salt to the onions/garlic.
Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you have a splatter screen, use it at this juncture! If you don’t (like me) please expect to clean the stove thoroughly from the red tomato polka dots after dinner.
The sauce will reduce nicely during those 20 minutes, as you can see here.
Plus I’ve heard that the acid tomatoes will soak up the iron from the cast iron skillet and give me a little extra boost in terms of my metallic needs.
As you wait for the sauce to become perfect, grate up the Parmesan cheese . . .
. . . and cube the cold butter.
Once the sauce is done simmering, take the pan off the heat and stir in the basil sprigs.
Note: we’re talking 3 whole sprigs here, not just 3 leaves. I tore off a couple leaves and set them aside for garnish.
Set the pan aside.
Heat 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Salt the water generously, and when it boils, add the pasta.
Cook 2 minutes short of al dente. We’re undercooking the pasta because we’re going to finish it off in the sauce, where it will absorb all the flavor during it’s final minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water (just scoop it out in a measuring cup) . . .
. . . and drain the pasta.
Discard the basil, add the pasta water to the tomato sauce . . .
. . . and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the pasta . . .
. . . and cook for 2 minutes (until al dente), tossing with tongs so that the sauce coats all the strands of spaghetti.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cold butter and cheese.
Toss the pasta until the butter and cheese are melted and incorporated.
Serve with extra basil and cheese to garnish.
Let’s dig in!
Yes, yes, yes. See how beautifully the ingredients have married?
So this is a little more trouble than using premade sauce, but if you have a little time, it’s so worth it. And now, a nice bottle of red would round things out perfectly.
Click here for printer-friendly version: Pasta al Pomodoro