Spaghetti with tomatoes, basil and pecorino romano
Have you ever gone back to basics in the kitchen to see if you can still cook a traditional, simple recipe? In our global and multicultural society, we are so into cooking new recipes to experiment on exotic food pairings (mango with tuna steak or potatoes, capers and coffee ), or just trying to impress our friends with recipes from Michelin-starred chefs. This is fine (and so much fun!!), as long as we do not forget that simple recipes with few, high quality ingredients, often means more.
I am a strong believer that culinary indulgence does not necessarily mean you have to throw a lot of ingredients (the more the merrier? …not!) into a recipe. By using few ingredients in a recipe, you let real flavors stand out and shine. Most importantly, you do not need to fiddle around or fix ingredients using state of the art cooking techniques.
When going grocery shopping, I have a hard time finding vegetables, meat, poultry, or dairy products with high quality standards. This is why I no longer go to supermarkets (seriously speaking!!). If I need to buy vegetables that taste like vegetables, I go to the local markets or to an organic food store; same happens when I buy meat, I go to my trusted butcher for I am 100% sure that my steak (or chicken breasts) will not taste like Rubbermaid.
Looking for some interesting ingredients for my “essential” pasta recipe, last saturday morning I headed into the local market near home. Signora Clara, the owner of a lovely vegetable and fruit stand, suggested me to get sweet date tomatoes (I am obsessed with these lately!!), and some fresh basil. My plan was to make a recipe made of tomatoes, basil and pecorino romano and a secret ingredient….
1 cup date tomatoes (about 30)
200 grs. of spaghetti (for this recipe I used De Cecco spaghettoni No.412)
2 tablespoons of pecorino romano
about 4-6 basil leaves (set aside 2 or 4 small to garnish)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 small onion
2 hot peppers (my secret ingredient!!!)
salt and pepper to taste
Mince onions and dice garlic.
Meanwhile bring a pot with water to a boil. When boiling, add coarse salt, and cook pasta following package instructions. Besides the quality of Pasta De Cecco, the main reason I am using this brand is because time indications on the package are very precise. For example, according to the package, cooking time for this pasta format – spaghettoni- is 13 minutes, which in fact is exactly the real-time it took me to cook the pasta.
Cut date tomatoes lengthwise.
Heat a skillet with extra virgin olive oil (over medium high heat) and place diced garlic and hot peppers. Sautee for about 2-3 minutes to let flavors infuse into olive oil. Discard garlic and hot peppers.
The spiciness of hot peppers (my secret ingredient) pairs heavenly with the sweetness of date tomatoes, adding the right balance to this dish.
On the same skillet, and keeping the same heat intensity, sautee onions for about two minutes.
Increase heat to high, add date tomatoes, and sautee for two minutes. Decrease heat to medium high and gently squeeze tomatoes to let the juices come out. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and transfer it to the skillet (over very low heat) with onions and tomatoes, add pecorino romano, and basil.
Note: Since I want to get the most out of ingredients, I tear basil with my hands. An old Italian lady once told me to avoid cutting basil with a knife because it prevents essential oils from basil to let their aromas out (a.k.a Old Italian Wisdom!!!)
Blend all ingredients.
This is the trick to this recipe: low heat helps oil and pecorino cheese mingle together by forming a creamy consistency. The result is marvelous.
Plating the dish:
To form a pasta nest, use a fork with long enough tines and hold it parallel over the skillet. Grab as much pasta as you can. Carefully transfer pasta to a soup ladle and twirl to form a nest. Gently place the nest on a plate. Finish by placing one o two basil leaf on top of the nest.
Serve and Enjoy!!!
Another angle of the dish.