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Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce (Spaghetti col Pomodoro fresco e la cipolla)

Sometimes I crave a large bowl of pasta, hot, cheesy and delicious. Italian Pomodoro sauce is an essential sauce in Italian cuisine with countless variations to the recipe based on individual tastes.

However, the tomato was first brought back by Cortez when he travelled to Central America, where this fruit was cultivated and used by the Aztecs in their cuisine for centuries. A chef to a Spanish king first published a tomato sauce with noodles as a recipe in 1692. The Italians were initially wary of the fruit thinking it was poisonous. The first Italian cookbook to include the recipe was L'Apicio Moderno, by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi, in 1790.

This sauce strays away from the restaurant-style Pomodoro sauce, it is light, barely cooked and fresh. The magic lies in its lightness from its lack of oil, and the freshness of the tomatoes is pushed forward. It coats the pasta beautifully and is perfect with a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a few slivers of basil.

Marcella Hazan is considered by many to be the doyen of Italian food and is credited with bringing traditional Italian cuisine to the US. She has published numerous cookbooks and I have quite a few of them. I have no idea how I started collecting her cookbooks, but each and everyone, including this one is a gem. Her amazing story of becoming one of the best-loved Italian chefs in America is detailed in a New Yorker article here. This volume is loaded with non-fussy traditional recipes that stay true to the core of light Italian cooking the dishes transport you back to Italy. This book is a compendium of classic recipes, one that belongs on every chef's kitchen counter and needs to be pulled out to curb that craving for great and healthy Italian cuisine.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 large onion, finely minced

2 lb tomatoes, finely minced

Salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chilli powder, or chilli flakes (not powder)

Italian basil, sliced into ribbons, to garnish

Parmesan cheese

Spaghetti pasta

Heat the butter in a large, wide pan, where the tomatoes can spread out evenly and cook on a large surface. Add the onions and cook on medium heat for 1 minute. Turn down the heat to low and cook covered for 3 minutes till the onions are lightly golden, do not allow them to pick up any colour.

Add the chillies, if using, and mix in cooking for 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat to medium. Cook stirring frequently for 6-8 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked but still retain their shape. Add the salt and pepper and taste, the sweetness of the tomatoes should be balanced by the pepper and salt. Set aside to cool. This is a light fresh sauce and one that is just cooked, not the traditional rich sauce that you usually see.

Cook the pasta as per the directions on the packet minus 1 minute for al dante. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the pasta water to the tomato sauce. Drain.

Toss the pasta into the sauce and toss well to coat the pasta with the sauce.

serve hot in a deep bowl topped with basil and Parmesan cheese.

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