I spent the last thirty minutes or so reorganising my photos into ingredient folders, if that makes sense. I just have too many, but it’s been a very interesting exercise, because now I’m aware of some old dishes I’ve been wanting to publish for ages. So for now, every Friday is Pasta Day. Lately my least busy day, at least for the summer, has been Friday. Having said that, today has been quite a hectic one and all I want to do right now is eat, watch a movie and sleep.
I have sadly finished all episodes of Castle. Sad days indeed. I had a very light lunch today so now I’m feeling ravenous. I don’t like heavy meals in the evenings though. I’m a light sleeper by nature, on the verge of being an insomniac, so anything heavy will make me sick. However I find that one of the gentlest things to eat at night is pasta. I know, I know, it may seem weird to you and it was to me too, the first time I read that. I mean, how was that even possible? I read an article a few years ago written by a chef. He said that he eats a small portion of pasta after a late night at the restaurant because apparently carbohydrates are one category of foods that are easiest to digest. I can’t remember where I read this but all I can say is that, for me, this works. I cut down quite a lot on pasta and bread these past few months, but once a week it’s pasta day in my house and that, my friends, makes me more than happy.
This will be a bit of a throw back. Not a #TBT (Throwback Thursday) – a #TBF, which I bet, knowing me, doesn’t even exist! (If it does please give me shout.) I make this and many versions of it often, and so the recipe below serves primarily as a guideline. As in almost every post I publish here, this pasta dish has a story behind it, which I recalled lately while having a lovely heart-to-heart chat with my mum. Mentioning my mum, before I continue I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to send condolences and kind words after the passing away of my nan. Every word was read and appreciated. A big thanks to all from the bottom of my heart.
So I promised you a story and here it goes. A few years ago, during one of our many dinners on our very eventful trip to Rome (the one where I barely slept, because I am not a good traveller and I need my own bed and pillows, yes I am a nightmare), I drank a couple of little teeny glasses of housewine – the size is debatable. Due to tiredness and the continuous jets of sunlight and high temperatures after a rainy British spring, I felt very sick and could barely eat for a couple of days. When this happens at home, one just accepts it. But, with a capital B, when something like this happens in Italy, it’s dreadful. I mean, you can’t not eat when you’re there. It just doesn’t happen. The temptation is too strong.
The most painful thing though, if you just forget the horrible stomach pains for one second, is the one where you watch all the people around you eat from their fantastic plates of food. Where you ever in that place? You know then, it’s terrible, just terrible. In the evening J and J2 wanted to go out for a nice meal, followed later by slashings of gelato. I didn’t want to go but not wanting to spend some four hours alone in my room, I tagged along. When the server came along to take our order, all I asked for was a bottle of sparkling water with some lemon slices. He was rather surprised, as though not eating was some sort of scandal. What, la signora isn’t hungry? How can that be?! So I ended up telling the guy that I wasn’t feeling too well, without going into too much detail of course. He just shrugged his shoulders, said something like “Ahhh” with this sort of pitying look on his face and went away. When he came back, he proposed a peace offering, a kind of compromise. He asked if I would let the chef make me a small serving of fresh pasta with a no-fuss tomato sauce, adding that I would feel better once I tried it. What was I to do? I accepted almost immediately. What the heck I thought, I’m here, might as well go for it. The worst that could happen was ending up in hospital…
The serving of the food seemed like a procession, with pomp and circumstance. I ate this small portion, very slowly, still doubting if this was really going to work out. When I finished I just sat there, wondering why such a simple dish was so good. Slightly salty fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, over fresh pasta. That’s it. Result: it was one of the best things I have ever, ever, had. Was I feeling OK? Yes, I was! It seemed a little like that moment in Eat Pray Love. This is my take on that sauce, with a bit of a kick. Tell me how you get on.
- 500g dried fusilli
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove of garlic, thickly sliced or minced
- ¼ teaspoon or less dried chilli flakes
- 400ml chopped tinned tomatoes or polpa di pomodoro
- 1 level tablespoon sugar
- salt (optional)
- Fresh basil leaves, washed and lightly chopped, and more for sprinkling after serving
Boil a pot of water and cook the dried pasta according to packet instructions. I used fusilli here, but really you can use any kind of pasta with grooves. However it’s totally up to you.
Put a large shallow pan on medium heat. Allow it to heat up and pour in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and garlic and let them sweat. When the onion turns translucent add the dried chilli flakes, chopped tinned tomatoes and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste if needed. Let it bubble away.
After a few minutes add some torn fresh basil leaves to the pan. To that, pour around one third of a cup of the starchy pasta water.
When the pasta is done, add it into the sauce, or vice versa, depending on what space you have in each pan or pot and give everything a good mix.
Serve 4 hungry people immediately with fresh basil leaves sprinkled on top of each pasta bowl.