Spaghetti al Pomodoro con Basilico is Italian for spaghetti in a tomato sauce with basil. It is one of the most traditional, and classic dish you will find in Southern Italy. It originated in Naples, the land of my paternal grandparents. In the Campania region, this dish is known to be a poor man’s dish because of the simple ingredients. It is made with San Marzano tomatoes that are indigenous to the area, where they are grown on volcanic soil. They are known to be the sweetest tomatoes in the world, very succulent, and less acidic. Here in the US, there is nothing poor about this dish, because it is made with high quality ingredients. There are many variations to this traditional dish, but today, I will share with the you the basic ingredients to make a killer sauce. Italians are very proud of their heritage, and DO NOT LIKE IT, (to put it mildly) when their original recipe is modified, or altered in any way. That is totally understandable, because they are trying to keep hundreds of years of traditions. Unfortunately, when a traditional Italian recipe is recreated, it tends to lose some of its authenticity, primarily because an ingredient cannot be found, or because it is adapted to meet a person’s lifestyle. I can honestly say for this dish, I was able to find all the ingredients, but of course, everyone has his/her own style, and method of cooking. Ideally, fresh San Marzano tomatoes would be better, but they cannot be found in my area. Canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes with the D.O.P. label is perfectly acceptable, even by Italian standards. Follow me, Let’s get cooking!
Serves: 4-6 Difficulty: Easy
- 1 lb. Spaghetti, Anna brand, or any brand of your choice
- 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, + more to drizzle
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 4-6 fresh basil leaves, divided
- 2 28- oz canned-San Marzano, peeled tomatoes, Flora brand
- Himalayan salt, or sea salt to taste, for sauce and pasta
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
1) Do your prepping, slice the garlic, leave one can peeled tomatoes whole, and crush the other one with your hands like the Italians do. It’s so much fun to use your hands, but, I use gloves because I have very long fingernails. (If you want to cheat, put it in the blender for 5 seconds. I didn’t tell you that, shhhhh!) Chop up 2-3 basil leaves. Set aside.
2) In the meanwhile, bring water to a boil for the pasta. While that’s happening, you will have plenty of time to make the sauce.
3) In a medium-size pot, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat, sautee the garlic, as soon as it releases its aroma, (if you wait too long, the garlic will burn, and have a bitter taste) drop the peeled tomatoes, the hand-crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt to taste. Bring to a quick boil, lower the heat to medium – medium-low, simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
4) You will be working simultaneously, while your sauce is simmering, the pasta water will come to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook pasta al dente, (to the bite). Follow package directions, minus 2 minutes of cooking time. To check for doneness, I do it the old fashion way, I taste a strand or two of pasta.
5) Drain pasta. By this time, the sauce should be done. Pour the pasta in the sauce, turn off the burner, and mix very well until every strand of spaghetti is coated with the sauce. It will look like a lot of sauce, but the pasta will absorb it in no time. Some cooks don’t crush the tomatoes, but that’s a personal preference.
6) Put the spaghetti in a pasta bowl, add a little sauce on top, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with basil leaves. That’s it!
Tip #1) please note, black pepper is not used, because the tomatoes are the featured ingredients in this dish. I didn’t want the pepper to overpower the sweetness of the tomatoes. This is the case, where less is more in this particular dish.
Tip #2) Some Italian cooks prefer to serve the grated cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano on the side.
Tip #3) Do not throw the pasta on the wall to check for doneness. Use the timer, or simply taste it.
Tip #4) It is not necessary to put oil in the pasta water. Just stir the pasta at the beginning, to avoid them from sticking to each other. Once they start cooking, they will separate from each other.
You will pay a premium price for these canned tomatoes, but it will be worth the dining experience. Take it from me, I have been in the kitchen for the last 25 years.
I have used different brands of San Marzano tomatoes, but I must tell you, it was the first time I tried the Flora brand, and my family and I could not get over the sweetness, and the complex flavors of the tomatoes. I am certain there are many other great brands out there. This is my opinion, and I did not get compensated to write about it. I’m simply sharing my experience with you in Gina’s Kitchen.
A little known fact, Neapolitan pizza is made with San Marzano tomatoes, known to be the best pizza in the world. Now, you can finally understand the reasoning behind it.
I recommend a delicious Italian red wine to pair with this scrumptious dish. A super Tuscan, a Chianti, a Rosso, the list is endless, and the choice is yours. If you can find Lacryma Christi, it would pair beautifully, since it’s from the same region, and similar volcanic soil as the tomatoes.
All the images belong to me, Foodiewinelover, except for the last image of the tomatoes. Photo credit is given to Goldlocki, found in Wikipedia.
I hope you will try this delectable sauce, and share your experience with me.