I’m no chef. I like to think I’m capable now and then. Sometimes, usually after watching Food Network, I walk cockily into my kitchen and think I can conquer any dish. The results are sometimes okay, and often times disastrous. What is squishy should have caramelized, what is grainy should have been fluffy, what is under and overcooked should have been al dente.
Without a Chipotle or Whole Foods in sight, and with the typical cost of dining out running from around 50 – 100 euros for two people, there is no escaping it. I must become a better cook or we’ll be eating sandwiches for the next two years… or starve. (too dramatic?)
But all is not lost. I am in the land of good, fresh food. And even better, thanks to the world wide web, I’ve discovered a few blogs that are helping me navigate the corner stones of Roman cuisine. One in particular, Rachel Eats, is my current favorite. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in authentic Italian cooking. Her blog’s intent is to write about recipes, but I also love that she includes the stories behind the recipes. Where she got them, what inspired her, who makes the best, where they come from, etc. For a novice like myself this is invaluable information.
So I started with the basics, a dish with few ingredients that are hard to mess up, Spaghetti al Pomodoro. She posted it because a chef friend of hers said he would gladly eat it every day for the rest of his life. Nice endorsement.
One of the things I like most about my new lifestyle is access to extremely fresh, and often lovely ingredients. Don’t be surprised if you see me post a still life painting of a tomato in the near future, I’m that enamored.
First you fry the crushed garlic cloves in a lot of olive oil, then you add the halved plum or cherry tomatoes and salt to simmer while the pasta is boiling. After a few minutes, you squish them with the back of your spoon (wear an apron). I think I waited too long on this, mine were very squishy.
Add torn fresh basil and stir. When the pasta is al dente, scoop the pasta, undrained to the sauce and stir. Apparently salted pasta water is important, it helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
When it was time to taste I was a little apprehensive. “This might break me,” I thought. Another culinary disaster could sentence us to crackers and cheese for a while. But it was good! Light, fresh, and still with a lot of flavor. And it was easy too! I’ve started a habit of making it about once a week for lunch. Rachel suggested eating this with ricotta on the side, but we opted for a grating of parmesan.
If you’re interested in this recipe, check out Rachel’s website here, she does a much better job describing it than me and has much better pictures of how it should be done.