Monday, September 19, 2011

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

Tonight I let Brian pick what we had for dinner (I owed him one). I actually prefer for him to pick, deciding what to make isn't my favorite thing unless I have a new recipe I want to try. I gave Brian some suggestions and he settled on pasta but requested that we try a new recipe. Brian is a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel. I watch the show with Brian, and Anthony is usually in some crazy country trying out the local cuisine. Every once in a while he'll do a show where he shows a few recipes of his own, and tonight Brian wanted to try out a pasta recipe from the show.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I'm sure the changes I made are not Anthony approved. The good news is I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog and will never find out about the changes I made! The recipe is very simple and gets its flavor from fresh tomatoes. Brian's dad gave us some fresh tomatoes from his garden and I was thrilled to use them for the sauce. He didn't, however, give us 20 tomatoes like the recipe calls for, so I supplemented with stewed tomatoes. (Cue Anthony rolling his eyes.) I think the stewed tomatoes worked out fabulous, I just think the over all flavor probably wasn't as "fresh tomatoes" as it was supposed to be. If you didn't know otherwise, you wouldn't know the difference. Don't be scared off by the boiling and peeling the fresh tomatoes. It is relatively simple and quick, and I quite enjoyed the process.

An important step to this pasta is to mix the spaghetti, cooked just shy of al dente, with the pasta sauce on the stove. Cook over the heat, while mixing to finish cooking the pasta. I liked that better than just pouring the sauce on freshly drained pasta because the sauce just slides off. Cooking the pasta with the sauce made the sauce and the pasta stay together much better. About the process, Anthony says, "...this technique not only coats the pasta evenly with the sauce, but it also introduces a little air into the process making the dish feel lighter and brighter." And who can argue with that.

This is a great little recipe, doesn't even call for onions or garlic. Brian absolutely loved it! We have no left overs. I asked him if he needed the salt and pepper and he said, "it doesn't need it." And if you know Brian, he never says that! This is for sure a make again, and soon. (Even though my doctor said to lay off the starches if I don't want to gain too much baby weight!)

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

About 20 ripe plum tomatoes (I used 5 fresh tomatoes and 2 cans of stewed tomatoes)
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. unsalted butter 1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about half a cup)
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise
1 lb. spaghetti (I used about 3/4 of a pound)

To peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease about 5 tomatoes in the pot and cook. Let boil for about 15 seconds and then promptly move them to the waiting ice water (do this with the remaining tomatoes). Pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. If the skin sticks, try a vegetable peeler using a gentle sawing motion. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

To cook the tomatoes: In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper (I always start with a light hand with the salt and pepper because as the tomatoes reduce, the salt will become concentrated).

Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze it for longer storage.

To serve: Bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement (you can even shake the pan) until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta liquid to adjust it). Take the pan off the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately.

Source: Anthony Bourdain: No Reseverations, Travel Channel


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