Saturday, September 17

Naked Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in New York City offers a spaghetti al pomodoro that whisks you off to Rome with a single pasta-twirled forkful.  So I jumped at the opportunity to create my own space-time impossibility when I saw this post on the Smitten Kitchen blog (which I think was inspired by Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil).  Understandably, my attempt fell a little short of the truly great spaghetti sauces.

In the year that I have officially been feeding myself without the aid of a meal plan or familial relation, I have found it incredibly useful to use recipes as a way to expose myself to a new type of cooking.  Then I can learn the basic principles of, say, pasta sauces and eventually branch off to my own variations.  And we know how much I love really simple, delicious things.

As for making your own tomato sauce from scratch, don't.  Well, don't unless the sauce is meant to exploit the flavor of the tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes in this recipe works because it is a "naked tomato sauce".  I would stick with cans of crushed tomatoes or canned tomato sauce is you are going to add the whole shebang: meat, peppers, onions, mushrooms.

That's my plug for this recipe.  That, and it was flavorful and tasty enough to not need freshly grated parmesan.  Which I would have grated with the grater that cost almost half of what I paid for for 3 pots, 3 pans, 3 kitchen utensils, and a set of 5 mixing bowls.  But hey, it's an investment...?

Naked Tomato Sauce
from Smitten Kitchen

3 lbs plum tomatoes
3/4 tsp course salt
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
small handful of basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 lb dried spaghetti
1 tbs unsalted butter

Peel the tomatoes.  The best way to do this is by cutting a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato, submerging them in water for about 30 seconds, and then shocking the fruit under cold water or with an ice bath.  Peeling off the skins should be pretty easy then.
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the innards (the seeds and juices).  Strain everything and keep the juice.  You can discard the seeds.  Crush the tomato slices in a saucepan that can hold the sauce and the pasta.  Crush them using a potato masher, a slotted spoon, an immersion blender.... OR your hands!
Turn the heat onto medium-high until the tomatoes start to boil and then turn it to medium-low and let simmer for 35-45 minutes.

hand-crushed, baby

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper, and basil in a tiny saucepan and bring to a boil as slowly as possible.  Infuse the olive oil.  When it boils, remove immediately from the heat and strain into a small ball.  Set aside for later.

After about 25 minutes of tomato-simmering, make the pasta but cook until it is very al dente because it will cook a bit more with the sauce.  Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to bring the sauce and pasta together.
Combine the pasta and infused oil in the tomato pot and add a little bit of the pasta water to bring everything together.  Consume.

This past week I was unbelievably able to attend the final match of the US OPEN!  Aanndd, Paul Simon was there!  So here's Paul Simon's "Cecilia":

Perelman, Deb. "Naked Tomato Sauce." Smitten Kitchen. 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2001. <>.

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