Fresh-Tasting Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti

Fresh-Tasting Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti
You can make this sauce in less than 10 minutes by using a large skillet instead of the conventional saucepan. Ripe seasonal tomatoes, preferably plum or sauce tomatoes, which have a lower water content, should be used when available, but first-rate canned tomato pulp is fine for the rest of the year.

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes or 2 cups tomato pulp

1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt plus 2 to 3 tablespoons salt

Freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 quarts water
14 to 16 ounces spaghetti

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or any combination of fresh herbs, chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping pasta (optional)

Peel the tomatoes, if desired, with a vegetable peeler or by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the juice and seeds into a strainer over a bowl. Chop or process the tomatoes and add to the reserved juice or measure 2 cups of canned tomato pulp.

Put the garlic in a large nonstick skillet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Place over moderate heat and cook until the garlic barely begins to color. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes look cooked and most but not all the liquid has evaporated. Add sea salt and pepper.

For a smooth sauce, blend the cooked tomatoes in a food processor with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil and return the sauce to the skillet. For a chunky sauce, add the remaining oil before serving.
Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons salt and the spaghetti; cook until it still offers considerable resistance to the tooth, around three quarters of the cooking time.

Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Add the drained al dente pasta, 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, and the basil to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Cook over high heat, stirring to mix sauce and pasta, until the pasta is cooked. Add more pasta water if the sauce becomes too dry. Serve immediately, topped with Parmigiano if desired.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course.

Red, White & Greens

by Faith Willinger