Editor's note: We're thrilled to introduce our bureau chief of all things Italian on Serious Eats, Mario Batali. Mario will be weighing in regularly on, well, anything he cares to weigh in on. We're excited to have Mario on the site, mostly because he loves to eat and cook as much as we do, and because he adheres to the Serious Eats bywordsPassionate, Inclusive, Discerningin all of his far-flung endeavors. Ed Levine
Nothing, nothing, sounds better than a plate of spaghetti al pomodoro in the month of September.
Did I say nothing? I meant nothing!
The myth of summer tomatoes will continue, but real cooks know that the maximum flavor raver for the golden love apples' peak of perfection is in fact September and even October. A walk through nearly any farmers' market in the northern hemisphere will prove me correct, as one jaunt this last weekend through the Union Square Greenmarket did. There are literally three dozen different types of magnificent tomatoes available in assorted hues, with fantasy names from Green Zebras and Brandywines to Black Russians, Wrinkly Ligurians, Ox Hearts and Cherokee Purples.
A relatively dry summer in the Northeast has produced a deliciously sweet and intense tomato crop, and any tomato you may buy will work in the following recipe as a substitute for the Sungold Cherry tomatoes (one of my all-time faves for sugary sweetness wrapped in a slightly tannic skin of acidity).
Spaghetti al Pomodoro
You'll just need to cut the tomatoes into 1-inch pieces and add them just after the garlic is toasted, cooking them 1 minute less, as they will not need to burst.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon hot chili flakes
- 2 pints of Sungold Cherry tomatoes (or 3 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes and their juices)
- 20 leaves fresh basil, cut into fine slivers (chiffonade)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino
It is even easier than it reads. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Heat a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil and garlic, and cook until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the chili flakes and the tomatoes, and cook over medium heat, stirring to keep the garlic from cooking any browner until the tomatoes just start to burst or deflate, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water, and cook until 1 minute less than the package instructions call for. Drain and toss in the pan with the tomatoes; place the pan over high heat and toss to mix well, about 45 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, then the basil, and toss well to mix. Then pour into a heated bowl, and serve immediately.
"Wow!" will be what you hear just before the silence of a happily chowing crew.
Word up. —MB
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