What do Italians LOVE to eat at any given time? Aaaahhhhh… there is nothing better than a simple, comforting, juicy and quick piatto (dish) of spaghetti al pomodoro of course!
And I don’t mean just any shape of pasta among the hundreds variety I grew up with, when I say spaghetti, I mean SPAGHETTI. Yes, the shape does matter.
Spaghetti is fun and entertaining! Think about the time you spend just rolling them up to your fork which is the perfect amount of anticipation to what comes next, a paradise of flavor! It also allows you the ideal amount of time to carry on a conversation with family or friends between one bite and another.
Italians value their social time EXTREMELY, and the dining table is to Italians what brings everybody together to discuss any matter, talk about how your day has been and even make some of the best business deals.
Spaghetti al Pomodoro (canned in this case) is the perfect, quick and not too involving fix when friends unexpectedly stay for lunch or dinner, it is the perfect midnight snack after a concert and few drinks (same for spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino (garlic, olive oil and spicy pepper) and let me tell you…it is the first dish I ever cooked for my American husband whom to these days is absolutely hooked and dreams about it when he’s not in town with me!
Now, moving on to how to make this very simple meal, I have to underline that the right INGREDIENTS make the difference. Big time. My husband keeps trying to make the sauce when visiting his family out of State but he just can’t obtain the same flavors because he does not use what I use. However he claims it to be my touch and I like to believe that :).
Spaghetti with tomato sauce (oregano and basil version)
- 2 cans MUTTI tomato pulp (polpa); this is what my family has used for years and what I prefer but If you can’t obtain the same brand you may look for one that is naturally sweet and not too acidic in flavor (please don’t add sugar it won’t do it!
- ½ cup MUTTI tomato puree; adds density to your sauce.
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil;
- 2 cloves fresh garlic; diced very small.
- 4 tbsp dry oregano; Mexican oregano won’t do it, too citrusy. Opt for regular oregano you find anywhere and if you want to go specific, Mediterranean.
- freshly ground black pepper; quantity as desired.
- 1 or 2 pinch cayenne pepper; adds a little "kick" to your sauce.
- salt; quantity as needed or desired but remember, while cooking it, the sauce reduces in amount about a half and becomes very salty if you use too much.
- grated parmesan cheese; at room temperature, to garnish. Cheese flavor is highly impacted by cold environments. In order to enjoy the full flavor of any cheese you should leave it at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before consuming. I buy my parmesan cheese – already grated - at Whole Foods as it is REAL cheese. Cheese is supposed to melt as soon as you add it to your pasta. If not, it is processed. I call it plastic cheese :).
- 12 oz spaghetti; I personally like De Cecco brand but there are many great brands available that won’t charge you for the “international factor”. You want to aim to 100% durum semolina.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE VERSION WITH BASIL
- 15 leaves fresh basil (instead of oregano); wash and let dry on a cloth on its own to avoid bitterness.
- 2 whole shallots or 1 quarter of a yellow onion (instead of garlic); cut small or in half moon thin slices. When I make the basil version of my tomato sauce, I like to pair this herb with onion and not garlic. I personally think is a better match. I use shallots or yellow onion because of the sweetness of it.
- In a stainless steel saucepan add the olive oil and warm it on low. Once lightly warm, add the garlic.If you don’t like to eat garlic pieces, you can alternatively smash 2 whole cloves lightly with your hand, add it to the oil and remove once light yellow. At that point the oil is flavored.
- Cook the diced garlic in until light yellow (do not burn the garlic or the whole sauce will taste like it) then add the tomato pulp and the tomato puree slowly (if the oil is too hot the sauce will splash everywhere).Add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano and stir with a wooden spoon (metal spoons have negative chemical reactions to acidic foods).
- Cover with a lid and cook on low for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring. Move the lid slightly to the side after 10 minutes and keep cooking on very low until your pasta is done.
- In a different pot (non stick is fine) start boiling the water for the pasta, with salt on medium high.Once the water is boiling, add the pasta loosely without pushing it in and stir. Pasta will naturally entirely be submerged. Turn the fire up to medium high and cook as directed on the pasta box. I like my pasta AL DENTE.
- Drain the pasta from ALL the water and put it back in the pasta pot. Immediately add some of the sauce and stir it evenly so the spaghetti won’t stick together.Plate the spaghetti, add more sauce on top and sprinkle the parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
VERSION WITH FRESH BASIL
- Follow all the steps as above, except for the use of 2 ingredients (fresh basil instead of oregano; shallots instead of garlic).Dice the shallots (or yellow onion) very small and add to the warm oil. Let cook until golden the add the tomato pulp, tomato puree, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Toss 10 basil leaves in, roughly cut, and stir.At the very end of the sauce cooking process, turn the fire off and add 5 whole basil leaves on top of it, without stirring. You may position a couple of extra leaves directly on each plated spaghetti, for additional flavor and decoration.Buon Appetito!
NOTE: my family and I have used MUTTI TOMATOES products for years and so far I find it to be the best option. Now also available Organic!
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