I arrived in Italy just over 2 years ago, ready to cook, excited and willing like a child on his first day of school. The dish we were to create or more so recreate was Spaghetti al Pomodoro, something so simple, a dish I had eaten a thousand times before, but done in a way that really gave direction to way food should be cooked and understood.
This dish by Executive Chef Andrea Trapani of the Apicius Culinary Institute of Florence for me was like eating it for the first time all over again, this allowed me understanding of how and why cooks and chefs do what they do.
As you drive around the countryside all over Italy, from the smallest family garden to the largest farm, I even grow them in my kitchen, Tomatoes have had a strong relationship with Italian Cuisine, every region have adopted this wonderful fruit as the key ingredient for so many traditional dishes.
Nothing will beat a vine ripen tomato at the end of summer, the sweetness bursting into your mouth, balanced by a slight acid tone, this is what makes this dish so simple yet so powerful.
— 8 San Marzano tomatoes
— 4 cloves of garlic
— 500g of spaghetti
— Small bunch of basil
— Extra virgin olive oil
— Salt and pepper
- First you will need to put a medium sized pot filled with water on the stove and bring to the boil. Take your tomatoes and cut a small cross at the base, this helps the skin to peel back during the blanching process. The tomatoes will only need to be blanched for only 30 seconds otherwise they will over cook, you just want the skin to blister so you can peel the tomato. Shock the tomatoes in ice water too stop the cooking process.
- Peel and de-seed your tomatoes, the skin and seeds can be bitter and take away from the true sweetness of the Tomato. Julian, and dice your tomato flesh into small cubes and set aside.
- Peel your garlic, now you donít want to chop it, but only to crush the cloves and you can do this with the back of your knife to release the garlic flavour and juice. In a medium sized pan, add olive oil and you garlic, cook the garlic until golden in colour then remove. Garlic can be overpowering if too much is used or if it gets burnt, so this is a way of being a little more subtle with the garlic, you have infused it with the oil and there will be a gentle garlic flavour through out the dish.
- Using the boiling water left over from blanching the tomatoes, add salt then cook your pasta until al dente ( To the tooth) al dente cooked pasta means there should be a slight firmness or a bite to the pasta.
- While your pasta is cooking, add the chopped tomatoes and sautè for a few minutes. If you have a hand blender, blend the basil with your olive oil to make a green basil oil, otherwise you can let the basil infuse over night is some good quality olive oil to get the same effect.
- Drain your pasta, and toss through with the tomatoes and finish with your basil infused oil and serve.