There are two types of basic tomato sauce, one made with fresh tomatoes and one made with canned tomatoes. A fresh tomato sauce can only be made when tomatoes are at their best, juicy and sweet, in Italy generally July and August. Fully ripe San Marzano are the ideal tomatoes for a fresh sauce. Cherry tomatoes are a good alternative when large tomatoes are out of season.
Please do not use the tasteless and watery glasshouse tomatoes for this sauce!
- 500 gr/1 pound San Marzano or plum or cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped or mashed with a garlic press
- 5 basil leaves
- 300 gr/ 10 ounces spaghetti
- pinch sugar, salt
Cherry tomatoes: chop each tomato in two or four pieces
Plum or San Marzano: pop in the microwave or in boiling hot water until the skin splits. Peel and chop roughly.
Using a shallow pan – a frying pan with high sides is ideal – sautee the garlic in olive oil over low fire. Do not brown the garlic, you only want to flavor the oil. You might add a some chile pepper if you want a spicy sauce. Increase fire, add tomatoes and sautee quickly until they are warmed through, they should not cook and loose their shape. Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar, no more than that you can hold between thumb and forefinger. Switch fire off, add basil leaves. The whole cooking should not take more than 5 min.
Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente, strain and transfer the pasta in the pan that holds the sauce. Turn on the fire and quickly stir so that the juice of the sauce is partly absorbed by the pasta. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and serve with parmesan or pecorino cheese on the side.