Pasta with tomato sauce has to be the most humble – and the proudest – dish to bring to the table. I imagine there are as many ways of preparing it as there are souls in Italy – and indeed, the soul of Italy is in the dish.
I make mine in a way that makes most Italians shudder when I describe it, but they seem to like it as much as I do when they eat it. I mix a very cooked-down tomato sauce (so thick you can stand a spoon in it) with raw tomatoes – to play counterpoint between the fresh aroma of raw against the intense acidity and caramel richness of the more ristretto sauce.
Sometimes I put basil in it, sometimes not. Sometimes I serve it with cheese, and sometimes not. But if you are going to put cheese with tomato sauce, please use Pecorino Romano - the salty tang and animal pungency is symphonic with the sweetness and acidity of tomato.
You will need:
- A large pot of boiling, well-salted water
- A colander
- A large frying pan or wide casserole
Your pack serves 2 as a main and contains:
- A bundle of spaghetti, made by Gentile in Gragnano
- Raw tomatoes and cooked down tomato sauce
- Grated pecorino romano, and whole basil leaves
- Bring a large pot of well salted (10g/lt) water to the boil
- Add the pasta – it takes 12 minutes, you might drain it after 10-11
- Add half a ladleful of the pasta water to your frying pan or casserole, along with all the tomatoes and tomato sauce
- When the pasta is just a fraction less cooked than you like to eat it, add it to the sauce with a splash more water, and cook in the pan until the pasta is done, and the sauce just dry enough to coat the pasta
- Decide if you want to put basil in your pasta. If you do, chop coarsely or tear the leaves and stir them through as you plate. Similarly, decide if you want to serve with the pecorino romano on top – if you do, sprinkle it on.