My heart feels heavy today and so I need something light. The past few weeks have been intense in a busy and complicated kind of way, and it all takes a toll eventually. As it did today. Tomorrow will be brighter.
On a gorgeous summers day like today (27 deg C in my part of London), my body calls for something fresh and bright and breezy. I didn’t want complications but I did want to eat something fresh and delicious and soothing. I wanted spaghetti and I wanted it with tomatoes, some fragrant basil and the punch and flavour of a hot red chilli. Fresh chilli would only do, I wanted more than the heat, I wanted the fruitiness and the gorgeous aroma. I wanted it to taste of summer and sun, and not of something that had been dried some time ago.
Spaghetti with tomato and chilli sauce all sounds very easy, and it is, but as with all simple things, the devil is in the detail. It is easy to make it, but it is better to make it the best version of it that it can be. It is tomato season right now, and there are superb tomatoes available everywhere. I eat more tomatoes than anything else, and I spend as much on them at my farmer’s market as I do meat. I adore them.
Tomato, garlic and chilli are the most used ingredients in my kitchen at this time of year. A good tomato does not need long cooking, it does not need tampering, or addition of sugar to make it sweet, it is already perfect. But, a good fresh tomato sauce benefits enormously from removing the skin. This small detail results in a smoother more gentle sauce, a sauce with skin in is bitty, and will leave you pulling skins out from between your teeth.
I start my sauce with garlic, 2 cloves, because why only 1? Garlic is delicious, I never could understand people who complained about it. Garlic is also a health powerhouse with vitamins C & B6 and antioxidants. There is evidence to indicate that garlic will improve blood circulation and reduce blood pressure.
Let’s talk flavour enhancers, natural ones. I look at chilli, it cheers that tomato up and makes it sing. And of course salt, the original and best. I can never resist some black pepper. And while it isn’t needed here, a little fresh lemon juice and zest can make most things sing.
Cooking pasta is easy, right? Well yes, in theory, but it is easy to get wrong. Dried pasta has no seasoning so it is important to season the water you will cook it in, that way the pasta will be seasoned right through as opposed to just on top if you season it when it is cooked. Pasta also does not need oil in the pot that it is cooked in. All pasta needs is lots of water in a big pot. Cheaper pastas are teflon extruded and so have a soft texture, these stick easier. Look out for bronze die extruded pasta which tastes better and also has a texture which the sauce will cling to.
- the biggest most joyful beef tomato you can find, or approx 300g smaller tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 fruity mild red chilli, stem removed and finely chopped (remove the seeds if you are squeamish!)
- a handful of fresh basil
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for frying
- sea salt and black pepper
- 100g good dried spaghetti