Beautiful Tomato Sauce : Pasta al Pomodoro : Wonderful Red

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The weather has not been terribly hot the last 2 weeks but that just summer taking a step back before it scorches all of southern california just in time for my birthday. Life in the kitchen has been more bearable. The AC unit has been repaired and although the power bill will go up in the next couple of months, cooking and working on the blog will be more enjoyable, I like that. I’m planning to fit some bread making, and muffin baking soon, will see how that goes but today I feel like something simple and quick like some pasta recipes and specially this one. Flour and tomatoes. This has to be one of the greatest combination somebody stumbled upon a long time ago and ever since has remained to be a lesson in yumminess. Pasta al pomodoro and another thousand pasta recipes, pizzas, etc,.. the list goes on! So incredibly tasty.

San marzano tomatoes, thought to have actually traveled all the way from Peru to Italy, these tomatoes, grown in Campania, are delicious and used by many chefs in professional kitchens as well as many home cooks. They are also readily available and not expensive. I really love these guys.  Now that summer is here, I will have access to beautiful veggies and fruits like the Roma tomatoes which are excellent for making sauces as well. I will use my last can of S.M. tomatoes and get ready for the season. When I cook a pasta dish, I like to get the pasta cooked al dente, and dress it with the sauce, whether in a hot pan or in a mixing bowl, or just top the sauce over the cooked pasta and let the diners have fun with the mixing, which is what my mom always did when we were kids.  My preference is to finish pasta in a hot pan with the hot sauce, but this time I opted for a serving of spaghetti topped with the tomato sauce. Delicious and can be done in less than 30 mins, including getting the noodles ready! Let’s go!

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Ingredients (makes about 3 cups): 

1 can (28oz) San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 medium shallot minced

2 tbs oregano (optional)

some parsley, a few sprigs, chopped

some basil, a few leaves, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

EV olive oil to taste (I used less than 2 Tbsp)

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On cooking pasta:

The amount of sauce in this recipe makes 4-5 servings. About 200g of pasta per person. So boil enough pasta as needed.

Prep all the ingredients for the sauce and boil some water for the pasta. Add enough salt to the water so is nicely salty. Add the pasta when the water is boiling. Cook for about 7 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Soft but with a little bite to it. Remove from heat. If the noodles cook before the sauce is ready, you could still keep the noodles in some of their water. Strain, reserver some of this water to thicken the sauce. Add some ice to the pot to cool the water and stop the cooking. The temperature just has to drop under 80C (176F) and you should be safe. You can always rehear the noodles if they go cold.

 Different approach:

I cook the noodles on a large skillet filled with enough water to cover the pasta. Add salt. Start with cold water. Medium low heat. Bring the noodles to about 85C-90C (185F-194F), no need to boil. About 15mins, total cooking time. Similarly to cooking whole potatoes, pasta can be cooked the same way. I’ve found that the integrity of the surface of the noodles is kept better this way, and never overcooks. Also, use only enough water to cover the noodles, which means less water wasted. And I rather clean a skillet over a big pot. Plus the time to boil water well, we all know the saying…

The differences between pasta cooked in boiling water and pasta cooked over the skillet with cold water is small and I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Boiling water in a stock pot has a couple of advantages which can’t be overlooked. Boiling water is easy and requires no attention, just patience. Also,  pasta needs to move around a bit so the noodles don’t gel together while cooking. With hot water, noodles hydrate and gel together easily so stirring is necessary which boiling provides. With the cold water approach it is almost impossible to get noodles to fuse together. Cook fresh pasta in boiling water, this is absolutely necessary. The noodles are already hydrated and only need to cook and they need to spend as little time as possible in the presence of water.

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To make the sauce, add olive oil to a deep sauce pan. Place over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and some caramelization takes place. Take heat to medium. Add the garlic. Don’t let brown. Stir. Add some salt (layering salt helps developing flavor) Add the tomatoes. Return heat to medium high. We want to cook/caramelize the tomatoes. I could eat this tomatoes raw, they are delicious but cooking them is going to add depth to the sauce and their color is going to intensify. They should take on a deeper hue of red. They will also lose water, the sauce will become thicker. Stir to prevent the tomatoes from burning at the bottom of the pan. After about 10 minutes, season. Add the oregano, parsley and basil. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add some pasta water if the consistency seems dry.
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For plating, simply add pasta to the plates. I like using tongs to serve pasta. With a big spoon or ladle, scoop enough sauce to go with the pasta. This is a personal choice, I like to use about 3/4 Cup per serving. Pepper to taste, add some grated parmesan cheese, garnish with some chopped herbs and its done! Pasta al pomodoro. Doesn’t get simpler than this!!!

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Until the next cooking adventure which should happen soon! take care!