Basic: Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti

We had the pleasure to teach a dear friend who was starting to cook. We started with a basic recipe – spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and cheese. Your pasta should come out creamy – simple and delicious! Everyone at the table (including my lovely but picky wife) took a second serving so we took that as a success. 😉

This recipe is common all over Italy, of course. It originated however in Naples in the 1700s.

Time

20 minutes

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 4 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans of peeled tomatoes
  • 500g of spaghetti (bronze pulled)
  • 100g pecorino cheese
  • basil leaves (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • coarse salt for pasta pot

  1. Pour the canned tomatoes into a bowl. Pinch off and remove the hard tips of peeled tomatoes.
  1. On a medium-low flame, add a generous amount of olive oil in a pan. Start to boil a pot of water on a separate stove.
  1. Cut off the base of garlic cloves, and cut them into halves. Add to the pan and leave to cook for 1-2 minutes (still on low-medium flame) so that they release their flavours into the oil.
  1. Add tomato sauce, allow it to warm (still on low-medium flame). Add salt to taste. Stir occasionally. Remember that you will be adding cheese at the end which will add to the final dish’s saltiness.

    At this point, the sauce should remain “wet” and not thickening or drying up. There will be some bubbling of the sauce but not too much.

    If you have basil leaves, you may add them to add a layer of sweet notes.
  1. While the sauce is warming, grate the pecorino cheese. We grated about a quarter of a wedge, which filled half a medium-sized bowl.
  1. When the pot of water boils, add 2 handfuls of salt (preferably coarse salt). Add the spaghetti. Set a timer to the time indicated on the packaging minus 2 minutes. Your pasta will finish cooking in the pan with the sauce later on, so that it exudes its starch to add creaminess to the sauce.

    It may seem like a lot of salt but do not worry. You need it to season the pasta. Most of that salt is going to remain in the big pot of water.
  1. After the timer rings, use a pasta ladle to transfer your spaghetti to the pan. With a ladle, add “starchy” water (a little at a time) from the pot where the pasta was cooked in if the sauce is not “wet” enough. When you move your spatula along the side of the pan, you should see a layer of liquid over the tomato sauce.
  1. After 2 minutes, check that the sauce is “wet”. This is to make sure that there is sufficient water in the sauce to mix with the cheese.
  1. Switch the flame off and allow the pan to cool slightly for a few minutes. Add the grated pecorino cheese, distributing it over the surface of the pan.
  1. Start working the cheese into the spaghetti by stirring from the top to allow the cheese to melt, before mixing it thoroughly. Once mixed, you are ready to serve!

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Canned peel tomatoes (La Corvinia, 400g net weight per can) – Foodies Market. Alternatively, buy canned tomatoes which are made either in (SA) Salerno or (CA) Cagliari, Sardinia.
  • Pecorino cheese – Foodies Market or Cold Storage
  • Coarse salt (Morton coarse kosher salt) – Cold Storage
  • Spaghetti (Academia Barilla, 500g) – Cold Storage

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Roasted Sweet Peppers (in Olive Oil & Garlic)

An absolute favourite all over the Mediterranean. The sweet peppers can be eaten on their own, or with bread. Dipping the bread into the extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic and roasted sweet peppers is a magical experience of its own. This vegan recipe is a bit laborious but is definitely worth it!

Time

1 minute of preparation,
20 minutes of roasting,
1 hour of waiting to cool,
15 minutes of peeling,
overnight of resting

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg red sweet pepper
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • salt to taste

I. Roast

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 240°C or 460F.
  1. Line a tray with baking sheet and arrange the whole peppers. Roast for 10 minutes until the skin blisters.
  1. With a protective glove, open the oven door and turn the peppers to the uncooked side. Roast for another 10 minutes until the skin shrivels and blisters.

II. Cool to room temperature

  1. Remove the tray from the oven and pour the peppers into a bowl along with any exuded liquid. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and allow to cool to room temperature for about 1 hour. Leave the baking sheet on the tray, to be used as a surface for cleaning the peppers later on.

III. Clean and infuse

  1. Peel the peppers and remove all the seeds. This is the tedious part! My grandmother will leave the seeds on, but I do not like their taste.
Pinch the peppers to peel the skin
Remove the tops, and tear open the peppers.
Remove the seeds with your fingers or with a spoon.
  1. Tear the peppers into smaller strips and put in a sealable container.
  1. To the container, add and mix thoroughly:
    • Crushed garlic cloves
    • Salt
    • Juice left in the bowl used to cool the peppers. This liquid is packed with flavours from the peppers.
    • Generous amount of olive oil until all the peppers are covered.
  1. Seal the container and allow to rest in the fridge for 1-2 days.
  1. Before serving, remove from the fridge a few hours before to “warm” to room temperature.

We served ours as fillings for homemade pita bread.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Peppers – Blu Kouzina

Red sweet pepper

The sweet pepper we commonly use in the South of Italy is not the bell pepper. It has a long shape, but is not at all spicy and is much bigger in size than peperoncini (hot chilli peppers). We found that at supermarkets in Singapore, the sweet peppers are referred to as “Palermo peppers”. Despite this name the sweet peppers are truly common all over the Mediterranean, not just in Sicily. We also used these peppers to make Calabrian “Sticky” Potatoes.

Removing the seeds

An easy way to remove the seeds is by halving the peppers and removing the seeds before roasting in the oven. However, I think that this way the peppers lose too much liquid and flavour.

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