How to cook pasta with tomato sauce
A simple plate of perfectly executed pasta is a joy. This is a recipe from Eataly London where we learnt to make this dish at a cooking class. (I was invited to attend this cooking class).
The high quality PDP and PGI Italian ingredients used is what made this simple dish incredibly delicious.
Who makes the best pasta in the world?
Any Italian will tell you that pasta from Grangnano is the best.
Bronze die cut pasta from Grangnano is the most highly prized in Italy. The small municipality of Grangnano in Naples have been hand-making pasta in the same way for over 500 years. Using only locally milled durum wheat and water from the springs of Monti Lattari, the pasta is then cut with a bronze die and dried very slowly in the sun. This produces a pasta with terrific texture, flavour and bite. The use of bronze cutters creates an uneven surface n the pasta which helps sauces cling to it.
This is the only pasta with a PGI certification. The remaining pasta producers are members of the Consortium of Gragnano City of Pasta. Pasta di Gragnano IGP status is only allowed to be used by producers within 15 square kilometres of the city. You can visit some of the mills that are still in operation since the middle ages. The Consortium are in the process or restoring some of the older abandoned mills that date back several hundred years.
There are many brands of pasta from Grangnano and we used the Afeltra brand and paccheri shape, which is a large tube with lots of ridges to catch the sauce.
You can learn more about Italian PDO and PGI certification here.
Which are the best canned tomatoes for tomato sauce?
For the best tomato sauce, use a really good quality canned tomato. The most prized is the San Marzano DOP, which is always touted by chefs as the best tomato for flavour. As it is only grown along the foothills of Vesuvius, the production is quite limited. Due to the high price of the real San Marzanos, this product is now one that suffers from food fraud. A lot of canned tomatoes pass themselves off as San Marzano. Check the label carefully. If it doesn’t have the DOP seal, it is not officially certified and you have probably overpaid.
We used canned datterini tomatoes from Cosi Come for the sauce. These tomatoes are also from Sicily.
They are shaped like dates (hence the name) and are grown in Sicilian volcanic soil. Identified by their thicker skin and flesh, and relatively fewer seeds, they yield more tomato pulp. When ripe, they are extremely sweet.
We cooked the sauce with just 3 ingredients, olive oil, a whole clove of garlic and the tomatoes. It took about 10 mins to cook down the tomatoes and to reduce the sauce. The use of a whole clove of garlic was to lightly season the oil and is removed before serving.
To ensure you get the best tasting dish, remove the pasta 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time and mix it with the sauce in the pan. Add some reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce.
Here, we served it with some torn basil and Stracaiatella cheese (which is the stringy cheese you find in the middle of a buratta). It was a delicious alternative to the regular grated Parmigiano or Pecorino.
This pasta in tomato sauce is a brilliant dish for a quick mid week supper. Easy enough for even the most novice cook to attempt. Here is the recipe from Eataly which Chef Eliano called Pasta Eataly.
You can buy all these ingredients from Eataly, Natoora or a local Italian Deli.
Paccheri pasta with tomato sauce and homemade stracciatella PACCHERI AL SUGO DI POMODORO E STRACCIATELLA
- 220 g Paccheri pasta
- 350 g Red datterino tomatoes and their juice
- 10 g Extra virgin olive oil
- 1.51 water
- 12 g Salt
- 5 g Fresh basil
- FOR THE PASTA
- Put a large saucepan of water on to boil.
- When boiling, add a handful of salt along with the pasta and cook the paccheri for 13 minutes to achieve "al dente" cooking.
- In a bowl, season the tomatoes with the basil, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt to your liking and lightly mix together.
- FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
- Cook the tomatoes over high heat for 2 minutes, then simmer for an additional minutes.
- Add the paccheri and finish cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
- Serve the pasta and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous spoon of stracciatella and fresh basil.