Spaghetti Al Pomodoro
Everybody knows spaghetti with tomato sauce. And probably you have already tried to cook them. It is easy, you prepare the spaghetti and then add the tomato sauce. Maybe you have also tried some of the best brand of tomato sauce in commerce.
But have you ever wonder what hides behind each bottle or jar?
Fly with me to the south of Italy. Imagine a village in the countryside and add a very hot day, then put some people screaming: “pomodori”. It is the end of the summer, the right time to prepare the “conserva”. This is how we call the bottle of tomato sauce we will store for the winter to come.
The process involves the entire family. It starts with mum and dad selecting the best tomato seller. They will end up buying a huge amount of tomatoes, not without having haggled on the price with the dealer that drives from a village to another to sell the local produce.
Once the choice has been made, heavy tomato crates are transported in a shielded place, generally the family’s garage, which has been cleaned and emptied to host a temporary little family run company.
The process will not last long, one maybe two days; it has to be done quickly because the tomatoes may soon go bad.
The chosen day will start very early, around 5 o’clock in the morning. The entire family is involved, children included. And all the tasks have to be done simultaneously, rapidly and with care.
Grandma will select the best tomatoes, trash the spoiled ones and eventually cut off those which are still half good. Not without swear against the deceitful seller. The children will take the selected goodies from grandma, move them into big buckets full of water and start washing them. This is definitely the best part of the entire chain. A right you lose, not without disappointment, when you turn 13 and you are assigned to more difficult tasks.
At this point it is already 10 am, the backyard is filled with laughs, chatting, splashing and screaming. You have already had some homemade biscuits or a piece of cake for breakfast. But it is always the right time for a little break and profit for some sweet treats.
In the meantime, mum and dad have washed bottles, jars, tops and the fresh basil to add on top of each container. Dad will have a break in the middle of the morning to go to the local bakery and buy bread and focaccia. The fragrant smell will soon announce his return to the courtyard.
It is now time to boil the tomatoes and then pass them into the press. Once collected into big bowls, mum will add salt and basil in order to quickly bottle the sauce she has obtained.
Grandpa is the fire manager. He is in charge of boiling jar and bottles into big tanks, generally on a fire made with wood.
At 1pm grandma will prepare lunch. A dish of spaghetti for everybody, using the sauce mum will have taken from the bowl near the press.
Lunch is generally served at 2pm. After that, children are allowed to rest or play, while the rest of the family will finish before the sunset. Dad and grandpa will be the last to stop as they will have to guard the fire and store all the containers in a fresh place.
Back in the days, I thought that plate of spaghetti al pomodoro was the most delicious meal in the world, because it was made by me and my family. I felt so proud. Here is an easy version of it. If you chose the right products, the result will be great as well. But before tasting the first bite, please close your eyes for a second, travel in time and space and the meet the people that have spread this simple yet amazing tradition.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 400g Spaghetti
- 500g tomatoes ripe and firm
- 1 garlic clove
- Basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmigiano cheese
- Wash the tomatoes under running water, cut a cross on the bottom of each tomato and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute; then drain with a slotted spoon, allow to cool a bit and remove the skin, which will come away easily.
- Remove the inner seeds, cut the tomatoes into small cubes and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and cook on a low flame for 10-15 minutes, salt and pepper to taste, then add a few basil leaves.
- In the meanwhile cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Once drained, add to the pan with the sauce, toss for a few minutes.
- Add Parmesan cheese on top just before serving.