You say tomato, they say pomodoro. And when they say it, they mean it. That's because the Italians are champions of simple, classically delicious ways of using fresh tomatoes.
One of the many basic ways they prepare garden-fresh tomatoes is in a pomodoro sauce made with basil and garlic tossed with pasta. This pasta is just that, noodles and tomatoes, a dish that embodies the core philosophy of Italian food — letting a few perfectly ripe ingredients shine.
Take the time to find fresh tomatoes, ripe ones, and now is the perfect time to go out and find (or pick) them.
Any variety of tomato works in this recipe, so long as they are very ripe. I prefer small tomatoes, such as cherry, pear or grape, because they can be tossed right in, skins and all. For larger tomatoes, peel them first, then chop them. This recipe takes no more than 30 minutes to get on the table. The best sauce, I discovered after years of sauce-making, is the least cooked.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Salt, as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Pinch red-pepper flakes (peperoncino)
16 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, divided
2 pints very ripe grape tomatoes (about 80 grape tomatoes)
8 ounces dry kamut spaghetti
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated and divided
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-low, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil. Add the garlic slices and toast, stirring continuously, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Watch closely so garlic doesn't burn. Increase heat to medium, add the red-pepper flakes and half of the basil leaves. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the grape tomatoes.
Add the pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente according to package directions, usually about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, toss grape tomatoes in pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they start to blister and skins pop. Mash tomatoes gently with a potato masher or fork to make a pulp, then turn off heat. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add drained pasta and reserved pasta water to tomato mixture. Increase heat to medium-high. Add half of the cheese. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until sauce begins to cling to noodles, using a heat-resistant rubber spatula to toss pasta to coat evenly.
Add remaining basil and olive oil and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide pasta among 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 281 calories; 6 g fat (19 percent of total calories, 2 g saturated); 6 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 6 g fiber; 260 mg sodium.
Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.