Spaghetti al Sugo di Pomodoro
This is how to prepare pasta in tomato sauce. In Italy, it is the most common way to eat everyday pasta. This basic tomato sauce is called il sugo di pomodoro. There is always a pan full of this sauce in Italian kitchens!
In Italy, pasta is traditionally served as a first course - un primo piatto - and this version is ideal for vegetarians!
(to serve approximately four adults)
Pomodori pelati (2 x 500g. tins of plum tomatoes)
Olio d' oliva (olive oil)
Spaghetti (1 x 500g. packet)
Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese)
Una cipolla (an onion)
Alcune foglie d'alloro (a few bay leaves)
Sale grosso (coarse sea salt)
Sale fino (table salt)
How to prepare:
1. Blend the tinned tomatoes in a blender OR pass them through a sieve by mashing them with a spoon. Tomatoes that have been passed through a sieve or blender become what is known as la passata.
2. Pour la passata into a saucepan. Add a crushed clove of garlic, a peeled onion cut in half, a couple of bay leaves, a small bunch of fresh parsley, a pinch of table salt and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
(The extra-vergine olive oil gives the best flavour.)
3. Leave everything in the saucepan to heat up gently. Stir with a wooden spoon every now and then. Gradually, as the water evaporates from the tomato juice, the sauce will become thicker. It is up to you how long you leave the sauce to evaporate. Some people prefer a runny sauce and some people prefer it to be thick. Test the thickness of the sauce by seeing how well it coats the wooden spoon.
4. When you consider the sauce to be ready, remove the onion, parsley, bay leaves and any large pieces of garlic. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Leave the sauce 'to rest' in the warm pan. This seems to make it tastier!
Un segreto - a secret: If you add a small cup of milk to the sauce when it's 'resting', it will make the sauce extra creamy and smooth.
5. Fill a large saucepan (about three quarters full) with water and add a small handful of coarse sea salt. Place the saucepan on a high heat and bring the water to the boil.
6. Open a packet of spaghetti. If it is in a plastic bag, open it in the Italian way - hold the package so that it is vertical and bring it down quickly, hitting the bottom onto a table-top.
Put the spaghetti into the boiling water. The water must be boiling and bubbling. Stir regularly so that it doesn't stick together.
7. To know if the pasta is cooked - take out one strand and bite it. It has to feel a little bit hard. This is known as 'al dente' - (to the tooth) meaning that it needs your teeth to bite it rather than it being overcooked (stracotta) and soft and mushy. Italians hate overcooked pasta!
8. Drain the spaghetti. Put it into a large bowl or pan and mix it with the tomato sauce. When the pasta is mixed with sauce in this way it is in padella, meaning 'in the big pan'. Mix gently but thoroughly using two forks. It is important that every strand of spaghetti is coated with the sauce.
9. Throw in small handfuls of grated parmesan cheese as you mix. The cheese should lightly coat as many strands as possible. The cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano is considered to be the best. Finish by adding some of the grated cheese to the top of the pasta too.
10. Call everybody to the table by saying: 'A tavola!' Serve the spaghetti straight away. Say 'Buon appetito' to everyone before you start to eat.
11. Eat the spaghetti with only a fork - una forchetta. For each mouthful, find a couple of strands and wind them around the fork, turning and turning until the full lengths have been totally wound around.
12. If the meal is good, say 'È buono!' If it's delicious, say 'È buonissimo!'
Having eaten all the spaghetti, lots of Italians wipe away any left-over tomato sauce on their plate with a piece of bread and then eat it! This is not considered to be rude in Italy and is known as fare la scarpetta.
I Consigli di Melissa
Some Advice From Melissa
Il sugo di pomodoro - the tomato sauce - is really tasty when served on some lightly-toasted bread. This type of bread is called la bruschetta.
If you are catering for vegans, do not add the cup of milk to the sauce or the grated cheese to the pasta.