For a while I had given up cooking homemade gravy, bolognese, marinara or whatever you call it. I must have tried ten different recipes, only to hear "just okay" from husband Todd. That is not a sufficient response to keep me mashing canned tomatoes, chopping onions and garlic to oblivion, and simmering until slightly thickened.
So we went back to professionally prepared Italian food, from Pompeii to Mia Francesca to Little Italy. We sang, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that's amore!" I'd picture my five foot two self as Cher in Moonstruck.
Then in May of 2011 Bon Appetit, "The Italy Issue," arrived. The cover photo was spaghetti smothered in the "simplest, silkiest sauce you'll ever make, p. 142." The cover proclaimed there's a secret involved. I was in.
I turned to page 142. I learned secrets, which I will break down into baby steps for you who also may need help to boil water. Or not. Either way, this one's a winner. At least that's what husband Todd tells me.
adapted from Bon Appetit Pasta al Pomodoro
The original recipe says this serves four people, using 12 oz. spaghetti. I've used 16 oz. and it works just fine. More instructions to follow.
In a 12" deep skillet or saucepan heat over medium low:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
When oil is hot add:
- 1 onion, very finely minced
Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 12 minutes. Keep close watch on the pot. As soon as onions are translucent add:
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add:
- A tiny pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional, I rarely use for fear of too much heat)
Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add:
- One 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, pureed in a food processor OR use same amount crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Keep sauce simmering, not boiling, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste and if it's too tart add 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir and taste again. You can also try adding 1/4 teaspoon sugar.
- 3 large fresh basil sprigs (the stem and leaves together)
Turn of the heat and set aside the sauce.
Cook 12-16 oz. spaghetti al dente (follow the box directions) and save about 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining.
Go back to your sauce. Discard the basil sprigs and heat on high. Stir in HALF of the reserved pasta water, bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and add HALF of the pasta, stirring until sauce coats pasta, adding more pasta one handful at a time (maybe more pasta water if it gets dry). Play and make it yours!
Turn off the heat and stir in until melted:
- 2 tablespoons cubed unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano (use the imported stuff)
Impressed with your results? I hope so. Bon Appetit!