Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Perfect Spaghetti al Pomodoro

Unfortunately I haven't had time to cook these past few days. I've been so busy that I'm actually forgetting meals -- shocking, I know. But as I am dedicated to this blog I must update -- even if there are no photos and obviously it's a lot less appealing but it's okay!

Here is how to make the perfect Spaghetti al Pomodoro. You can use the same tomato sauce for dozens of things. Eat it with meat balls, with stuffed vegetables, put on top of pizza. It's incredibly versatile. Add some anchovies and sun dried tomatoes with the soffritto in the beginning. Add cream or chopped mozzarella in the end. But here is the basic, classic, traditional, fool-proof recipe for the best Spaghetti al Pomodoro.

My father loves Spaghetti al Pomodoro -- he could eat it all day long. Because of his work, he mainly eats Chinese food (living in China and all that), and so whenever he is home, all he wants is this. Now, my father may not be able to cook many things, but his pastas are sensational -- I never order this dish outside, ever. Italians are often very conservative with their foods, and I'd like to think that I'm slightly more open-minded, but with some classic dishes... I don't like making changes. I feel like changing it would insult my family in a way, as these dishes are much more than just delicious food -- they're memories. Memories of my father making pasta in the middle of the night, memories of seeing strands of spaghetti tangled up in a vibrant, thick sauce with sparks of green basil on a plate too large for me, yet still insisting on eating it all with my fork and hands and savoring the perfect balance of sweet, sour and salty.

Notes on cooking the pasta and the sauce
The pasta:
It should be cooked in boiling water with some coarse sea salt, and cooked al dente. Please don’t butcher the poor thing by leaving it in the water for just a few minutes extra. Read package instructions, if it says 8 minutes, start checking at 5. Remember, it needs to be a tad undercooked for it will still cook when you put it in the pan with the sauce. There is nothing worse than overdone pasta. Nothing. Al dente, guys, "to the tooth", it's gotta have that texture, that bite to it.

Traditionally it's eaten with long shaped pastas like spaghetti, but use whatever you have at hand.

The Sauce:
Ok, fresh tomatoes in this case usually aren't better. Unless you can get excellent Italian tomatoes --forget it. Use the tinned stuff.

1 can Italian peeled tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped

Fry the onion, celery and carrots over medium heat for about ten minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn the heat down and let it simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Add the pasta that's not yet fully cooked, and a bit of the pasta water. Toss everything together for a couple of more minutes. Serve with torn basil leaves, a generous grating of parmesan and a drizzle of the finest extra virgin olive oil you have.

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