This very basic recipe is popular throughout Italy. Although any purchased spaghetti will do, this dish becomes special enough for company if you use artisanal pasta, preferably imported from Italy. This makes a wonderful first course. (In every Italian household, there is always a pasta course!) Note: To peel tomatoes, core and cut a small X through the skin on the bottom of tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place them in boiling water for about 30 seconds or just until skins begin to peel back. Quickly remove tomatoes from pan, and plunge them into ice water. Drain and remove skins.
- 1 1⁄2 lbs plum tomatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt, divided
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 quarts water
- 12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
- 1⁄4 cup minced fresh basil
- 6 tablespoons grated fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- Squeeze juice and seeds from tomato halves into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, reserving juices; discard seeds. Finely chop tomatoes.
- Heat 2 T. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds or just until garlic begins to brown, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, reserved juices, 1/2 t. salt, and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 15 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally.
- Bring 6 quarts water and remaining 2 T. salt to a boil in an 8-quart pot. Add pasta to pot; stir. Cover; return water to a boil. Uncover and cook 8 minutes or until pasta is almost al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.
- Add hot pasta and reserved cooking water to tomato mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until sauce is thick and pasta is al dente, tossing to combine. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with basil; toss. Place 1 cup pasta mixture on each of 6 plates. Drizzle each serving with 1/2 t. of remaining oil; sprinkle with 1 T. cheese.