My first Italian creation while living in Florence, and how creative of me to cook one of Italy’s simplest pasta dishes! This dish is on almost every menu in the Tuscan region, in “Primi Piatti” or first course.
When I go to a restaurant in Florence (which is quite often) I love to order pasta fresca con pomodoro. There are so many interpretations of this dish, and each claim to be the best. Some are fresh and light with little cooking time, and some are rich with an intense taste of sweet tomatoes. I had the great joy of sampling one that was “é la sua morte!”, which means “to die for!” It was perfectly balanced and landed somewhere in the middle of intensely rich and wonderfully light.
How did they achieve this? I don’t know for sure but I created a recipe that I think comes pretty close. I used fresh tomatoes that were ready, ripe and bursting with flavour to ensure the sauce has freshness, sweetness and acidity. I used tin tomatoes to create richness.
We all know time heals the soul, but did you also know it’s the trick to making a good sauce! I came to Florence to learn the language - and in Italy that includes the language of food too!
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 medium white onion, peeled, finely chopped
750 kg ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
Salt and cracked pepper
Enough fresh fettuccine for 4 people or 480g of dried fettuccine (if buying fresh pasta from a deli ask how long it needs to be cooked for)
15 g Parmesan cheese
1. Remove the leaves from basil stalks and set aside. Finely chop the basil stalks and half the leaves. Reserving half the leaves for garnish
2. Put a saucepan on a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the onion and cook for 7 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the finely chopped basil stalks and cook for a few minutes
3. Add the roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes and vinegar. Season with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper, then continue cooking for 1 hour on a low heat. Stir occasionally and squashing any large chunks of tomato with a fork
4. Stir in the finely chopped basil leaves and leave to cook for a further 30 minutes.
5. In the meantime fill a large saucepan ¾ full with water, add a pinch of salt and cook the pasta according to the packets instructions. If you’re fresh pasta from a deli ask how long you need to cook the pasta for. You want to cook the pasta until it is al dente “to the tooth”. This means soft enough to bite but still has a slight firmness.
6. Once the pasta has cooked, ladle out one mug of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the tomato sauce and toss well, adding a splash of pasta water to loosen if need be
7. Serve with a generous grating of parmesan cheese and the reserved basil leaves