Pasta al Pomodoro

Written by on October 17, 2020 in Gastronomy

pasta pomodoro

Pasta al Pomodoro – Italy’s favourite dish!

Pasta al Pomodoro, along with its cousin, Pizza Margherita, represents Italian cuisine in it’s purest and most classic form. The Italian flag on a plate you could say.

Pasta al pomodoro done well is all you ever want in a plate of Italian food. As long as you like tomatoes, and pasta I suppose. It is refreshing, almost thirst quenching, and can somehow manage to be luscious and rich, as well as light and delicate all at the same time. 

Along with brother, Spaghetti Aglio Olio Peperoncino and sister, Pasta Bianca, Pasta al Pomodoro is THE staple dish of Italy. Everyone has grown up eating it at home and in school, then in work place canteens, at the motorway services and at the football. Every home has a stock of ‘pasta secca’ in the kitchen cupboard as well as a few tins of tomatoes and jars of ‘passata al pomodoro’ for emergencies. Anyone with a patch of garden is growing their own tomatoes and preserving them for winter. 

On paper Pasta al Pomodoro is a very basic dish but it is actually great fun to play with. There are loads of ways to experiment with it and by trying different ingredients and varying your method you can get lots of subtly different results. There doesn’t appear to be a single right way to do it, everyone seems to have their own preferred version. Or versions, depending on the time of year, how much time they have, what ingredients they have available and what they feel like. Through trial and error, you will find your own favourite formular.

There are all sorts of choices you can make for the tomato part. Tinned tomatoes work well, either whole or pulped. Or use a tomato passata. Fresh tomatoes will give the best results, so long as they are in season and tasty and there are 300 varieties grown in Italy for you to try out. 

You can skin and de-seed your tomatoes for a restaurant touch if you like, or not bother. Go for a quick sauce ready in 5 minutes, basically as soon as the water from the tomatoes has disappeared. Little cherry tomatoes lend themselves perfectly to this. Or go for a slow cook, maybe 30 minutes to an hour, in which case you might need to add water from time to time.

ingredients of Pasta Pomodoro

Some people cook the tomatoes in just olive oil, some add butter. If you are using olive oil, the better the oil the better the results. You can start off with just the oil, with or without a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, to be removed at the end or you can add finely chopped onion as well. Some people do, some don’t. In the south of Italy mostly they go with just the garlic. Adding basil in some form, ideally fresh but also dried, during the process seems to be universal. Some people also add parsley and oregano. 

The boiling water for the pasta needs to be properly salted and the pasta cooked just the right amount. Add some of the starchy pasta cooking water to the sauce when you drain the pasta to make it creamy. Tip the pasta into the sauce making pan, stir it in properly and then serve. With a sprig of fresh basil on top.

In the north of Italy they automatically add grated parmesan or pecorino, sometimes into the sauce as it cooks and/or just sprinkled on top on the plate at the end. In the south I have been told they tend to go without the cheese. 

Pasta-wise there’s the whole range of fresh and dried models to experiment with, although the classic choices would be spaghetti and penne. But even then, which thickness and what brand do you prefer?

different shapes of pasta

Go onto Youtube and you will find endless videos of Italian chefs describing their own pasta al pomodoro philosophy. And all the celebrity chefs will have at some time or another given their versions. Ask the Italian people you know their theories on the matter. You will discover a whole host of subtly different ideas and recommendations. And this is what makes Pasta al Pomodoro such an endearing dish to eat and to prepare.

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