- Food & Drink
I was inspired to make this ridiculously time consuming dinner for one after listening to Ruth Rogers on Desert Island Discs. That, and having six ripe tomatoes – fat as tennis balls, their skins cracking with juice – sitting in the fruit bowl waiting to be eaten.
On Desert Island Discs Ruth was asked what she’d eat on her island and she said pasta pomodoro. Made with the best tomatoes, olive oil and basil (obviously) and cooked very, very slowly. That stayed in my mind over the next few days, much as the penne con pomodoro I ate in The River Cafe four years ago has. I remember the sweetness of the sauce, the springiness of the pasta, the joy of eating lunch with friends in the sunshine. If chip buttes didn’t exist, I’d be tempted to go for pasta pomodoro as my dessert island meal, too.
This isn’t a quick meal, although I ate it on a Wednesday after work. I set the sauce going and then, because it needs nothing more than the occasional turn of a spoon, cracked on with making a madeira cake. By the time the cake was on the cooling rack, the sauce was ready and I was in my elasticated waistband eating trousers.
I didn’t have any basil, so there’s no happy splash of green on the plate. If you have it (and it’s the best quality, of course), strew it all over the spaghetti before serving.
Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce
A thick slice of butter, around 25g
A splash of olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
6 large tomatoes, around 600-700g
A pinch of sugar
Parmesan, to serve (optional)
1 Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat with a splash of olive oil. Add the onion. Season and stir to coat the onion in the fat. Cover the onion with a piece of greaseproof paper and pop the lid on the pan. Sweat the onion over a very low heat for 10 mins till the onion is soft and sticky, but not coloured. Stir it a few times to check it isn’t catching.
2 While the onion sweats, slice a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes. Tip them into a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave them for a few minutes, then drain them. When they’re cool enough to handle, gently pull off the skins. Dice them.
3 Add the diced tomatoes, seeds and juice included, to the pan. Add a small pinch of sugar. Give it a good stir. Put the lid back on and simmer for around an hour, stirring now and then, till the tomatoes have broken down and you have a nice looking sauce.
4 Take the lid off the pan and simmer the sauce for a further 20 minutes to thicken it. The sauce should be fairly thick and reduced down – stir it often to stop it burning. Taste it and adjust the seasoning.
5 When the sauce is nearly ready, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook it according to the packet instructions until it’s al dente. Drain quickly and chuck back into the pan – having some of the cooking water clinging to it is fine. You don’t want it to be bone dry.
6 Add the tomato sauce to the pan. Pick the spaghetti up and drop it a few times to mingle it with the sauce. Serve on a warm plate with grated Parmesan.