Spaghetti alla Napoletana.
This is how to prepare pasta in tomato sauce. In Italy, this is the most commonly-eaten pasta. It is always served as a first course and is ideal for vegetarians!
(to serve approximately four adults)
Pomodori pelati (2 x 500g. tins of plum tomatoes)
Olio d' oliva (olive oil)
Spaghetti (1 x 500g. packet)
Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese)
Una cipolla (an onion)
Alcune foglie d'alloro (a few bay leaves)
Sale grosso (coarse sea salt)
Sale fino (table salt)
How to prepare:
1. Blend the tinned tomatoes in a blender OR pass them through a sieve by mashing them with a spoon. The important thing is to have the juice from the tomatoes.
2. Pour the tomato juice into a saucepan. Add a crushed clove of garlic, a peeled onion cut in half, a couple of bay leaves, a pinch of table salt and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. (The extra-vergine olive oil gives the best flavour.)
3. Leave everything in the saucepan to heat up gently. Stir with a wooden spoon every now and then. Gradually, as the water evaporates from the tomato juice, the sauce will become thicker. It is up to you how long you leave the sauce to evaporate. Some people prefer a runny sauce and some people prefer it to be thick. Test the thickness of the sauce by seeing how well it coats the wooden spoon.
4. When you consider the sauce to be ready, remove the onion and bay leaves and any large pieces of garlic. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Leave the sauce 'to rest' in the warm pan. This seems to make it tastier!
(Un segreto - a secret. If you add a small cup of milk to the sauce when it's 'resting', it will make the sauce extra creamy and smooth.)
5. Fill a large saucepan (about three quarters full) with water and add a small handful of coarse sea salt. Place the saucepan on a high heat and bring the water to the boil.
6. Open a packet of spaghetti in the Italian way - hold the packet so that it is vertical and bring it down quickly, hitting the bottom end of the packet onto a table-top.
Put the spaghetti into the boiling water. The water must be boiling and bubbling. Leave it to cook for as long as is necessary - it all depends upon the thickness of the spaghetti. Stir every now and then.
7. To test the spaghetti to see if it is cooked - take out one strand and bite it. It has to feel a little bit hard. This is known as 'al dente' - meaning that it requires your teeth to break it rather than it being soft and mushy. If it's ready, say 'È pronto!'
8. Drain the spaghetti. Put it into a large bowl and mix it with the tomato sauce. Mix gently but thoroughly using two forks. It is important that every strand of spaghetti is coated with the sauce.
9. Throw in small handfuls of grated parmesan cheese as you mix. The cheese should lightly coat as many strands as possible. The cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano is considered to be the best. Finish by adding some of the grated cheese to the top of the pasta too.
10. Serve the spaghetti straight away. Say 'Buon appetito' to everyone before you start to eat.
Eat the spaghetti with only a fork. For each mouthful, find a couple of strands and wind them around the fork, turning and turning until the full lengths have been totally wound around the fork.
11. If the meal is good, say 'È buono!'
If it's delicious, say 'È buonissimo!'
Having eaten all the spaghetti, lots of Italians wipe away any left-over tomato sauce on their plate with a piece of bread and then eat it! This is not considered to be rude in Italy.
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