Beautiful Tomato Sauce : Pasta al Pomodoro : Wonderful Red

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

The weather has not been terribly hot the last 2 weeks but that just summer taking a step back before it scorches all of southern california just in time for my birthday. Life in the kitchen has been more bearable. The AC unit has been repaired and although the power bill will go up in the next couple of months, cooking and working on the blog will be more enjoyable, I like that. I’m planning to fit some bread making, and muffin baking soon, will see how that goes but today I feel like something simple and quick like some pasta recipes and specially this one. Flour and tomatoes. This has to be one of the greatest combination somebody stumbled upon a long time ago and ever since has remained to be a lesson in deliciousness. Pasta al pomodoro and another thousand pasta recipes, pizzas, etc,.. the list goes on! So incredibly tasty. 

San marzano tomatoes, thought to have actually traveled all the way from Peru to Italy, these tomatoes, grown in Campania, are delicious and used by many chefs in professional kitchens as well as many home cooks. They are also readily available and not expensive. I really love these guys.  Now that summer is here, I will have access to beautiful veggies and fruits like the Roma tomatoes which are excellent for making sauces as well. I will use my last can of S.M. tomatoes and get ready for the season. When I cook a pasta dish, I like to get the pasta cooked al dente, and dress it with the sauce, whether in a hot pan or in a mixing bowl, or just top the sauce over the cooked pasta and let the diners have fun with the mixing, which is what my mom always did when we were kids.  My preference is to finish pasta in a hot pan with the hot sauce, but this time I opted for a serving of spaghetti topped with the tomato sauce. Delicious and can be done in less than 30 mins, including getting the noodles ready! Let’s go!

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups): 

1 can (28oz) San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 medium shallot minced

2 tbs oregano (optional)

some parsley, a few sprigs, chopped

some basil, a few leaves, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

EV olive oil to taste (I used less than 2 Tbsp)

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

On cooking pasta:

The amount of sauce in this recipe makes 4-5 servings. About 200g of pasta per person. So boil enough pasta as needed.

Prep all the ingredients for the sauce and boil some water for the pasta. Add enough salt to the water so is nicely salty. Add the pasta when the water is boiling. Cook for about 7 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Soft but with a little bite to it. Remove from heat. If the noodles cook before the sauce is ready, you could still keep the noodles in some of their water. Strain, reserver some of this water to thicken the sauce. Add some ice to the pot to cool the water and stop the cooking. The temperature just has to drop under 80C (176F) and you should be safe. You can always rehear the noodles if they go cold.

 Different approach:

I cook the noodles on a large skillet filled with enough water to cover the pasta. Add salt. Start with cold water. Medium low heat. Bring the noodles to about 85C-90C (185F-194F), no need to boil. About 15mins, total cooking time. Similarly to cooking whole potatoes, pasta can be cooked the same way. I’ve found that the integrity of the surface of the noodles is kept better this way, and never overcooks. Also, use only enough water to cover the noodles, which means less water wasted. And I rather clean a skillet over a big pot. Plus the time to boil water well, we all know the saying…

The differences between pasta cooked in boiling water and pasta cooked over the skillet with cold water is small and I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Boiling water in a stock pot has a couple of advantages which can’t be overlooked. Boiling water is easy and requires no attention, just patience. Also,  pasta needs to move around a bit so the noodles don’t gel together while cooking. With hot water, noodles hydrate and gel together easily so stirring is necessary which boiling provides. With the cold water approach it is almost impossible to get noodles to fuse together. Cook fresh pasta in boiling water, this is absolutely necessary. The noodles are already hydrated and only need to cook and they need to spend as little time as possible in the presence of water.

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

To make the sauce, add olive oil to a deep sauce pan. Place over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and some caramelization takes place. Take heat to medium. Add the garlic. Don’t let brown. Stir. Add some salt (layering salt helps developing flavor) Add the tomatoes. Return heat to medium high. We want to cook/caramelize the tomatoes. I could eat this tomatoes raw, they are delicious but cooking them is going to add depth to the sauce and their color is going to intensify. They should take on a deeper hue of red. They will also lose water, the sauce will become thicker. Stir to prevent the tomatoes from burning at the bottom of the pan. After about 10 minutes, season. Add the oregano, parsley and basil. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Add some pasta water if the consistency seems dry.
Beautiful Tomato Sauce

For plating, simply add pasta to the plates. I like using tongs to serve pasta. With a big spoon or ladle, scoop enough sauce to go with the pasta. This is a personal choice, I like to use about 3/4 Cup per serving. Pepper to taste, add some grated parmesan cheese, garnish with some chopped herbs and its done! Pasta al pomodoro. Doesn’t get simpler than this!!!

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Beautiful Tomato Sauce

Until the next cooking adventure which should happen soon! take care!

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  1. This is so lovely and it serves as a good reminder to make some more fresh pasta sauces in a few weeks when the tomatoes get especially amazing here on the East Coast.

  2. That brand of of San Marzono tomatoes is based in Vineland, NJ. They aren’t bad but I prefer to use tomatoes from Italy, just seem to taste better consistantly.

    1. You’re right, these tomatoes aren’t the real san marzano tomatoes DOP grade imported from italy, which are also available at some stores and definitely available online and are amazing. I have tried them, and loved them. This american brand, although not the same, delivers pretty amazing tomatoes and superior to most brands found at regular groceries stores. Thanks for the clarification Jgordon!

  3. I adore simple preparations like this. As you show, simple doesn’t have to mean boring!

    Loved reading about the science too. Never thought to bring my pasta up to a certain temperature. When the temp drops, the noodles don’t absorb more liquid?

    1. baconbiscuit! pasta will absorb water (salty water even) no matter what temperature, sort of the same thing happens to dry legumes or any dried goods, by soaking them, you let them absorb water, and they cook faster (the hydration step is partially underway therefore less time) , and the same happens to pasta. Take for example making fresh pasta, the egg provides a lot of the water in it, if dried, then you end up with dry pasta, if you soak dry pasta in water, even in the fridge with cold water, the pasta will absorb it, then cooking it is faster. Heat will cause the starch in the pasta to gel, cooking it, like breads gel in the oven at about boiling point. Eventually, overcooking the pasta will cause the starch to break down, allowing more water in, and the pasta structure will be destroyed, you get mushy and slimy stuff after a while. By lowering the temperature after the pasta is ready, you protect the starch from overcooking, basically just keeping the pasta warm and ready for serving. Similar principle applies to making mash potatoes, cooking the potato too long, and a slimy mushy mess is the result (which you can fix/hide by adding tons of butter and cream… but that’s cheating) 😉 Try soaking some dry pasta overnight, it’s fun 🙂 and check out this post:

        1. some restaurants par-cook pasta so they can be ready at a moment’s notice. Some know how to do it, most will just serve soggy noodles though hahaha. Risotto is also par cooked at some restaurants, so you don’t have to wait 40 minutes at your table. I place my pasta in a baggie with water and leave it in the fridge overnight, the next day i take some sauce and my pasta, and at work, I microwave the noodles in water, they will cook in about 6 minutes. Lunch is served. Some noodles don’t like this approach, and I haven’t figured out why. Egg content perhaps.. or low gluten content is one of my guesses

          1. I knew they prepped risotto like that but never thought about pasta.

            That is a genius idea for lunch. Will have to try it!

            Not sure about why some noodles hold up and some don’t. I would imagine hard durum would be the best to prep ahead of time. I bet the shape affects the final result too.

          2. I think I read something about this in regards to pasta cooking time. Tubular pasta supposedly cooks faster because water can touch both sides of the . . . oh, heck. The more I think about it, the more I can come up with all kinds of reasons why that can’t be the case.

            I guess you’re right: that leaves trying and seeing for ourselves!

            Btw, how is the family visit going?

          3. it’s crazy, there’s so much going with them visiting and work gone crazy, my mom’s birthday is today (well, it is midnight so she is in bed, but tomorrow we’ll do something like get dinner somewhere, there’s an italian place I like) I haven’t posted anything since they got here. I hope I don’t lose my interest for blogging, I was doing it pretty regularly. I’m working on a post about measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume and the metric system.. but I have to figure out how to drive it though some photos… rulers and scales arent that interesting to look at hahha

            Getting back to the pasta issue… surface area will determine how fast pasta hydrates, right?, but once pasta is hydrated when cooked (which then gels the starches which gives the characteristic chewy texture, and the noodle doesn’t taste of raw flour) it should still have the texture of cooked pasta, but the fusilli I cooked was almost crumbly, like a really weird texture to bite into. Really strange.

          4. That is weird! Crumbly? It wasn’t something like whole wheat pasta or gluten-free pasta was it? Bizarre!

            You won’t lose interest in blogging. We all go through cycles and it’s not easy to post regularly. I think everyone understands.

            Ah, weight vs. volume. I would LOVE it if all recipes, especially baking ones used metric.

          5. yeah, it could have been some weird gluten free thing, trader joes special… i dont remember heheheh but it was not appetizing at all!

            Yeah, only a few books give you metrics for recipes, and some bloggers have started migrating their recipes to the metric system as well. There are also a great deal of bloggers that have been using the metric system since forever. It is an interesting subject! I just need a half day to finish the post but can’t find the time hahaha Oh well, thanks for the encouraging words! Really appreciate that

  4. Hello there! I can tell I am going to love your posts. You have a spotless blog. Your photography and the recipes are so inspiring. This pasta and the salmon asparagus risotto are so perfectly put together.

    1. Hi! 🙂 thank you so much for coming to visit and following and for your nice comment! I hope I don’t disappoint you! I had but to check yours. You have a lovely blog. I’ve been a little slow with posting, with some family visiting. Can’t wait to find some time to get back in the kitchen and continue playing!

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