Pasta al pomodoro | Fresh tomato sauce

The BEST fresh tomatoes you can find - plum, vine-ripened, heirloom or even cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped, about 2 cups (or 4 plum tomatoes)
Basil, chopped, 1/2 cup
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped, 6-8 cloves
Hot red pepper flakes or paprika (ideally, homemade), 1/4 tsp
Olive oil, excellent quality
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste or about 1/4 tsp each
The right shape of pasta

Serves: 2

1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until almost but not quite al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking liquid and set aside. (The sauce cooks quickly, so I recommend cooking the pasta first.)
2. Sauté garlic in olive oil until softened.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and paprika.
4. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then add basil.
5. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, up to 10 minutes. A shorter cooking time will leave tomatoes with more substance; a longer cooking time means a less chunky sauce, with only the tomato skins left behind. All are good.
6. Add pasta and reserved liquid to sauce. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes to reduce liquid. By cooking the pasta a bit more in the sauce, the pasta gains more flavor. Serve.

The story:
View from the Old Parsonage,
where we stayed during my first trip
back since graduating, October 2012
This is very definitely my recipe - to make my mom's version, simply substitute fresh for crushed tomatoes in our family tomato sauce recipe. I made this - from scratch - several times a week when I was a graduate student at Oxford. It was a quick, spectacular and reasonably healthy lunch.

My son explores the Old Parsonage's
17th century fireplace
This is also very much a recipe that rests on the quality of the ingredients - your tomatoes and basil need to be outstanding. A sprinkle of sugar or splash of high-quality balsamic vinegar can help bring out the flavor in suboptimal tomatoes; a teaspoon of good pesto can help with less-than-fresh basil. But in general, I prefer to save this recipe for when I know I have amazing produce to serve. I also find the quality and shape of the pasta (which always matters to me) matters even more. I like something with some firmness and bite to it and so would suggest farfalle, garganelli, cavatelli, or cheese tortelloni. Both fresh (i.e. egg) and dry pastas work well.
Lovely Oxford in the summer
June 2007

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