Imagine a good plate of spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce, garnished by a generous handful of grated Parmigiano… ah, if this isn’t the epitome of Italian comfort food! Simple, yet delicious.
Every supermarket stocks liters and liters of decent or even good-quality ready made tomato sauce – but why buy it when you can make your own? The best tomatoes to make sauce with are the smaller cultivars, those that you can buy still attached to their vine: cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, piccadilly tomatoes, Roma tomatoes… there are so many different kinds that is almost hard to choose only one. Our absolute favourite is the ‘Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio’, a cultivar of tomatoes from around Naples, in southern Italy. This tomato variety was selected because its thick skin makes it possible to keep it fresh for months at end, allowing for a constant supply of fresh tomato sauce to be used on pizza.
Follow our tips to prepare some traditional spaghetti with tomato sauce; but don’t you dare break the spaghetti in half or eat them with a spoon!
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 15 mins | Cooking time: 60 mins
- Piennolo or Cherry or plum tomatoes, fresh: 800 g
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): 30 ml
- Basil, fresh: 4-5 leaves
- Garlic: 1 clove
- (Optional) Parmesan, grated: to taste
- A small piece of carrot (about 2 cm) or a pinch of sugar
Tip: To verify whether your tomatoes have reached optimal ripeness, just look at the stalks: if the stalk is dark green, dry and the tomatoes detach easy, it means the tomatoes are just as ripe as they should be.
Wash the tomatoes under cold running water and use a knife to cut a shallow X on each tomato, crossing over the point where the tomato was attached to the stalk. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the tomatoes from the water and leave them to cool down in a bowl full of ice cubes or under cold running water. Peel the tomatoes; thanks to the way you cut the skin before blanching the tomatoes, they will peel easily. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds if they are visible and white – smaller seeds will not be a problem in your sauce. Dice the tomatoes in small cubes and then crush them with a fork.
Roughly chop the basil leaves. Peel the garlic and brown it in a pan along with the olive oil. Add the crushed tomatoes and let them simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Add the basil and season to taste.
Tip: When picked in season, fresh and perfectly ripened tomatoes usually taste perfect just as they are. Should your sauce taste too acidic, however, you can add a pinch of sugar – or even better, a piece of carrot or pumpkin, which will release its naturally sweet flavour and counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.
Turn off the heat and leave the tomato sauce to cool down slightly.
Tip: If you want your sauce to be just like the ones at your favourite specialty shop, use a food processor to blend the tomatoes in a puree. For a more ‘homemade’-like sauce, just leave the tomatoes in pieces.
Boil the spaghetti in salted water, being careful to put them in the water only when the water is visibly boiling; the pasta will overcook if you put it in the water when the latter is still cold.
When spaghetti are ready, drain them from the water and put them back in the same pot. Add a ladle of sauce to the spaghetti and mix them well.
Garnish each plate with a generous ladle of tomato sauce, some fresh basil leaves and a handful of grated Parmigiano.