Perfect Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby pear tomatoes (or cherry or vine-ripened tomatoes), or one 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 8 ounces thin, best-quality spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into 1/8-inch-thick pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley leaves, loosely packed and torn
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)


1. In a tall stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil.

2. If using pear tomatoes, wash and stem. If using vine-ripened tomatoes, score bottoms with a small “X”; blanch 5 seconds in boiling water. Plunge tomatoes into an ice-water bath, then remove the skins. Using a chef’s knife, cut flesh from cores, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips; place in a sieve set over a bowl. Press the cores of tomatoes through sieve; discard seeds. If using canned tomatoes, strain, and pass through a food mill.

3. Drop spaghetti into boiling water; stir. Cook until al dente, about 11 minutes, according to package instructions.

4. Place a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat; add oil. Add garlic to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Add red-pepper flakes and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until garlic is medium golden, about 1 minute.tomato

5. Increase heat to high. Tilting pan at an angle, add tomatoes. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, pear tomatoes begin to burst, or canned tomatoes begin to thicken, 5 to 6 minutes. If using pear tomatoes, mash a few with a spoon. If pear tomatoes start to get too dry, add a little water from the stockpot.

6. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1 cup liquid in case sauce gets too dry. Add pasta to sauce in sauté pan; cook until sauce begins to cling to pasta, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in basil; cook 30 seconds more. Divide among bowls, and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Serves 2 to 4

This recipe’s quickness depends on getting all the sauce ingredients and cooking equipment ready before you start cooking. Then, when the water’s boiling, start the pasta, and sauté the sauce at the same time.

Copyright © July 3, 2008