This is my go-to pasta dish. We eat an exorbitant amount of pasta here. In our house, there is no fear of carbs and we do not have gluten issues. We don’t run from carbs, we embrace them. To us, a meal without carbs is well, not a meal. Last summer my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law were here for a month. They cooked for us every night. They planted a garden. Nonna Antonia woke up one morning at 7 a.m. and declared, “Vado fuori a zappare.” Translation: I am going outside to hoe. Out she went in her black skirt (she is in mourning) and purple polyester shirt and asked for a shovel. She was 82 at the time. I was standing there barely awake trying to ingest my caffe’ latte as fast as possible to better comprehend what she was asking. I thought she was kidding. She was serious. Nonna proceeded to go out front and she started to prep the land. That meant, tear apart 1/2 of one section of our front yard Neighbors were whispering to each other. I quickly finished chugging my caffe’ latte and grabbed my camera. I was beginning to wonder if I should stop photographing the event and start digging with her. I offered my assistance and she told me in uncertain terms to back off. Seriously, she didn’t need my help. Nonna Antonia grows every thing and makes every thing from scratch. She has the most amazing olive trees in Calabria. Tears are trickling down my cheeks just thinking of her olives and olive oil. Her husband, Nonno Giuseppe, passed away two years ago. My father-in-law and mother-in-law go to Calabria every year to help take care of the olives. Luckily, we get care packages a few times a year with olives in freeze-dried packages.
My canned tomatoes from last May are long gone. Every once and a while I think of making them again. It just won’t be the same without the nonnas. I still frequent my Latino market and stock up on tomatoes once a week. Last night I made a quick Spaghetti al Pomodoro e Basilico. It is easier to make than you might think. If there is one Italian dish you could learn to make, this should be it.
1 lb spaghetti (I use Barilla or De Cecco)
10 to 12 fresh plum tomatoes (approximately 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
freshly chopped basil leaves
Bring pot of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil, add salt to the water (about a teaspoon of salt per quart of water). Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. There is nothing worse than mushy pasta. While pasta is boiling, cook your sauce.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Saute’ chopped onion until translucent (about 3 minutes).
Add chopped plum tomatoes and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add chopped basil and extra virgin olive oil if desired, just before using.
Drain the pasta and add the fresh tomato sauce. You could save some of the pasta water and add to the tomato sauce if it is a little dry.
Sprinkle on some parmesan (we use Parmegiano Reggiano D.O.P. -it is the best!).