Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The idea of cooking something "from scratch" freaks most people out. It certainly used to do the same to me. If a recipe had more than 3 steps, I was out. But don't be afraid. Take it one step at a time. It's not nearly as scary as it seems, and knowing you made every element of the meal is deeply satisfying. It's also a way to make a simple dish more high-impact for guests. "I made this!" 

I felt like making an easy meal. Simple. No fuss. Some ultra-skinny spaghettini with tomato and basil. Maybe a crust of bread and a quick pass with some freshly-grated parmesan. No meat. No gravy, no mashed potatoes, no crispy green bean on the side. Simple

And so it was. Some tomatoes. Basil. An onion and a few cloves of garlic. Salt.

Spaghettini with Fresh Tomato and Basil

Olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2lbs Roma tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded
1 ounce of fresh basil leaves
Salt, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, score the end of your tomatoes with an X and toss into the boiling water. Leave them for one minute before removing to an ice bath. The skins will peel off easily. Slice, core, and seed the tomatoes. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet or stock pot. Cook the onions until translucent, and then add the minced garlic. Add the tomatoes, which you've loosely chopped, and allow the whole mix to simmer away. It really doesn't matter how long this cooks, though the whole mess becomes mushier as time goes on. Add chopped basil two minutes before serving in order to maintain its green colour. 

It was exactly as I'd hoped: Light and fresh, yet rich and aromatic. 

This dish works beautifully with fresh ingredients, of course, but it's also something that can be pulled together from the pantry for a quick midweek meal. Canned tomatoes can, arguably, be better than fresh, especially if you don't live in a place where tomatoes are grown naturally year-round. But, make sure they're San Marzano tomatoes which are grown in Italy and considered the best. Look for the official designation ("DOP") on the can, which means they've been qualified as such.  I mean, if you're going to eat from a can, it should be top notch, yes? 

Something like this can go with almost any wine. A light red or a bright white. Jeff enjoyed a glass of Flying Kiwi Pinot Noir (LCBO, $15.95) while I had a glass of my go-to, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (LCBO, $19.95).

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (April 19, 2011)
Beef Ragu with Maccheroni (March 24, 2011)


  1. Kim Crawford, the best go-to there is. Love this!

  2. This looks delish. Yum!

  3. yum yum yum! I can never make a decent pasta sauce from scratch. But I will try this one, it looks so simple!

  4. YUM! I love that: "No meat. No gravy, no mashed potatoes, no crispy green bean on the side. Simple." So many times I am guilted (by my own weird ideas) into adding all those extras. Thanks for the inspiration to stay simple.

  5. so simple, so great. and adaptable - such a good recipe to keep in your pocket.

    we need to cook together soon!

  6. This is one of my favourite meals to make. I use fresh tomatoes only when they're in season (which isn't long enough in Toronto) and San Marzano the rest of the year. Delicious.

  7. Always my parents' go-to meal when I was a kid. Accurate, right down to the translucent onions. But don't forget to save a cup full of starch water in case the pasta is a tiny bit too dry!

  8. Yum sounds very tasty and so easy to make. Will be trying it out xx