Midnight pasta with tomato passata sauce
We are keeping different schedule here in Italy with all the comings and goings and sometime late at night we just want something to eat. Unless I have a dish ready I invariably turn to a quick pasta and use passata as a base for the sauce.
Passata is a useful Italian ingredient not well known at home so I thought I’d tell you about it. It is common in Italian kitchens and frequently called for in recipes from other European cuisines.
Passata is uncooked tomatoes pressed to a pulp, with the seeds and skin removed. Many Italian cooks make their own and it is indispensible to their cooking. The flavour is pure tomatoes and the riper they are the better the passata. It is different than tomato sauce or puree because it is uncooked and not mixed with any other ingredients.
You can find passata in Italian stores or other specialty shops. Look for a glass bottle of various sizes, Here I was able to buy it in small size, just enough for making a quick sauce for a midnight pasta for two.
When I cook a small amount of pasta I cook it in a skillet instead of a large pot of water (also here), but you have to watch it and stir frequently to make sure it is covered with water and doesn’t stick together. The directions below are for boiling the pasta in a pot.
200 gr spaghetti
2 cups passata
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water or pasta cooking water
1 tablespoon dried herbs (basil or oregano both work)
Salt to taste
A pinch or so hot pepper flakes
Set a pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
Place the passata, olive oil, water and spices in a dip skillet that would fit the amount of pasta you are cooking. Bring to a slow boil, lower heat and simmer uncovered until the pasta is ready. If you don’t add the water now you can a little pasta cooking water as necessary to thin out the sauce.
When the pasta water comes to a boil add a large pinch of salt, then add the pasta and if you want a drop or two of olive oil (this is a controversial issue. Some say that if you add oil the pasta sauce won’t stick to the spaghetti. I add a little oil because it seems to keep the water from splattering too much, or at least that is what I believe. Do as you wish).
Cook the spaghetti until al dente according to the package directions (they are right most of the time) but you may want to undercook by a minute or so because the pasta will keep cooking in the sauce for a couple of minutes.
By the time the pasta is cooked the sauce should be thickened and bubbling nicely.
When the pasta is done drain, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid just in case you need to thin out the passata, and add the pasta to the skillet.
Cook for a minute or two stirring with tongs to mix the pasta with the sauce.
Add some of the cheese and mix.
Using tongs pile the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and serve immediately.