Monday, September 5, 2011

The Perfect Tomato Sauce

Beautiful vine ripened tomatoes from the farmer's markets
 Tomatoes are currently at their peak season right now and I've been finding ways to eat tomatoes for every meal; fresh heirloom tomatoes on toast with mayo for breakfast and lunch, cherry tomatoes from the garden in salads, sliced tomatoes on pizza. No better time to try Scarpetta's famous spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce recipe that I found on Serious Eats. I've heard about Scarpetta's spaghetti for so many years now from so many sources, I think first from an episode of Anthony Bourdain's show. Just a few simple ingredients: fresh tomatoes and basil from the farmer's market, garlic, olive oil, butter, parmigiano reggiano, red chili flakes and salt. The sauce was perfect, so fresh and simple but also with richness, with each deep flavor standing on its own. The sauce is very "round" tasting and smooth without any acidity; almost sweet with the natural freshness of the tomatoes. I think the key is the olive oil infused with garlic and basil as well as the finishing pat of butter at the end. I've never actually been to Scarpetta, so I'll have to go check it out to see how it compares. Takes a little time to cook, with the blanching of the tomatoes in order to peel them, and the cooking of the sauce for at least 45 minutes, but it is totally worth it. Plus it fills the whole house with the intoxicating aroma of garlic, basil, and olive oil. I've already made another batch of sauce, it was so good. I used perciatelli from DeCecco, a hollow spaghetti, like bucatini, which was perfect with the delicious sauce. Recipe served two, without any side dishes / appetizers. Could serve 4-6 as a pasta course.
Core 2 lbs of tomatoes and score the bottoms with an "x". Blanche in boiling water for about 30 seconds until they start to split, like on the right, and put them in ice water. Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds and juice and set aside the seeds and juice
Heat up a couple of TB of olive oil over medium heat and put the tomatoes in, seasoning with salt and some chili flakes, stirring occasionally
After about 5 minutes, smash the tomatoes with a potato masher. Continue stirring and mashing the tomatoes, simmering for about 45 minutes
While the tomatoes are cooking, heat up over medium low heat 1/4 cup of olive oil, with 6 cloves of garlic and 2 stems of basil, and some red chili flakes. Continue stirring, turning the heat to low when the oil starts bubbling. Let the garlic and basil cook for about 30 mins. When the garlic starts lightly browning, remove from heat for a few minutes and strain into the tomato sauce

Cook about 3/4 lbs of pasta short of al dente. Transfer the pasta to the saucepan with sauce with a little pasta water and toss until the pasta is al dente. Remove from heat and add about 10 leaves of fresh chiffonade basil, freshly grated parmesan and 1 TB of butter, toss, and serve

You can see the hollow perciatelli in this pic
Perfect with a bottle of 2009 Curran Grenache Blanc

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