Pasta Pomodoro

Summer Supper: Pasta Pomodoro + California Wines

My favorite nights are those spent with friends in either my home or theirs, outside on the deck or patio with a glass of chilled wine and something delicious to eat. Simple, right?

No matter how busy you are you probably have the time to make this light summer supper which pairs beautifully with the wines of Napa Valley and Mendocino. Quick and light, pasta Pomodoro is the simplest of Italian pasta dishes. With so few ingredients, it’s important to use the best, so imported San Marzano tomatoes and pasta from Italy are a must. The sauce cooks up in a flash, but make it up a day ahead so that all you have to do is cook the pasta and open a delicious bottle of wine. Simple.

Pasta Pomodoro

*Start to finish: 30 minutes
*Hands on time: 20 minutes

Super simple dishes like pasta Pomodoro require the best of ingredients and precision when it comes to cooking the pasta perfectly. The directions on the box almost always instruct you to cook it too long. The best pasta is al dente or “to the tooth” which means it should have a little resistance when you bite into it. For the best tasting pasta dishes check the cooking status frequently so that you don’t miss the perfect point of doneness. The next step is to serve it on hot plates so that it stays warm while you are eating it. Try warming plates in the microwave (no metal edges) in one minute bursts until toasty warm before plating the meal.

Don’t forget to open a chilled chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc from Napa or Mendocino to accompany this feast. Now mangia!

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 pinch red chile flake
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt plus 2 teaspoons
  • One 24-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil, leaves removed, stems discarded
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb dried spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and, when it shimmers, add the onion. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes or until it softens, then add the garlic, tomatoes, chile flake and 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté for another minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes, crushing them in your hands before dropping them into the pan and then pour in the juice and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes. Add the basil leaves and set the sauce aside.

When ready to eat, add the 2 teaspoons salt to the boiling water. If the pot isn’t large enough for the pasta to be immersed, break it in half so that it slips under the water and add it to the pot. Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes and pull a strand from the water to test it. Bite it in half to see if it is tender in the center. If still crunchy or too chewy, cook for another minute and test again. When done, drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Reheat the sauce and taste the for seasoning. Transfer the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss over medium heat to combine, adding some of the pasta water if the sauce looks too thick.

Swirl the pasta onto heated plates, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Make-ahead: You can make the sauce a day ahead kept covered and chilled. Just reheat in a large pan over medium heat and continue with the recipe.

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