This is it. This is the one. Hands down, my family’s favorite pasta recipe. I’ve probably uttered those words before. Might do so again. It will all be lies. Lies. This. Is. It: Pasta Pomodoro. This is the recipe you serve to say: “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” or “Will you marry me?” And, because the universe is kind, its easy enough to make on a Tuesday.
The first time I tasted Pasta Pomodoro was at Scarpetta at the Foutainbleau in Miami Beach. It was our first date night after Lillian was born. We’d heard rumors about Scarpetta’s legendary pasta pomodoro and I was so excited to taste it. My mom offered to watch baby Lillian, only a few weeks old, for a couple of hours while Jon and I snuck away to the restaurant, just a few blocks from our rental house. I squeezed my exhausted, flabby, post-pregnant self into a fancy dress and hooker heels, all in anticipation of this ridiculous pasta. It did not disappoint. It was incredible. The sauce was velvety and buttery and smoother than any tomato sauce I’d ever tasted before, with a distinct, heavy dose of basil. It became my mission to replicate it at home.
After much research, I based my Pasta Pomodoro recipe off of a version once featured on the cover of Bon Appetit. Their recipe was deliciously close to Scarpetta’s version, but it lacked something. Over the years, I’ve made refinements and, based on my family’s reviews and those of basically anyone who’s ever tried it, I think I finally nailed it.
We eat this about twice a month and it never gets old. The first bite always makes my eyes roll back in my head. The sauce is velvety to the point of being unctuous. The tomato flavor is bright without being tart, with tons of basil to round it all out. Its amazing with spaghetti or bucatini, although even linguine will work.
This dish is so simple it really does require excellent ingredients to shine. Look for cans of real, imported whole San Marzano tomatoes, high quality Italian spaghetti, the best parmesan cheese you can find and more basil than you think you’ll need.
Trust me, you will not be disappointed with this one. Give it a try. I dare you.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
4 large sprigs fresh basil
1 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. best-quality imported spaghetti or bucatini
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add basil. Allow basil to steep in tomato sauce for about 15 minutes.
- Transfer sauce to a blender. Add a half cup of parmesan cheese and sugar and puree until smooth.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and spaghetti and cook until about 2 minutes before tender. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
- Return pomodoro sauce to skillet and along with pasta. Toss pasta in sauce over medium heat adding the butter and another 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Stir in some of the pasta cooking water as needed to achieve a smooth consistency. Continue tossing until pasta is completely coated in sauce, about 2 minutes more. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately with remaining parmesan cheese as a garnish.