Honestly, who doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn? Graceful. Beautiful. Intelligent. Elegant. A talented actress and a humanitarian (think of all her work with UNICEF). A survivor of Nazi-occupied Netherlands in WWII, she spoke fluent English, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian.
So on Friday, when I saw Audrey’s face on the May 2013 issue of Vanity Fair at the checkout line in Target (where I purchased three — yes three! — fabulous shirt dresses), I just had to snag the magazine!
In addition to some gorgeous pictures of the seemingly effortless and timeless elegance we associate with Audrey, the accompanying article includes some recollections from her youngest son, Luca Dotti, as well as a brief excerpt from the upcoming book, Audrey in Rome, which he co-edited.
In the Vanity Fair article, Luca talked about how much his late mother loved Rome and how she became “Roman” when she married his father, Andrea Dotti. According to Luca, her favorite dish to make and share with friends was Spaghetti al Pomodoro.
Huh! Intrigued, I Googled and learned that it’s a very simple, very basic tomato pasta sauce. Fresh ingredients are ideal, and as with Pizza Margherita, it’s one of those dishes that is best kept simple — it’s the simple flavors of a few ingredients that make this dish so yummy!
Seeing as 1) we’ve had some lovely weather (not too hot) and 2) we hadn’t yet had our meatless supper this week, I decided we would dine al fresco and have a tossed green salad, Spaghetti al Pomodoro with a (frozen) cheese toast, and a dessert of fresh fruit with a dollop of whipped cream (eyeing what was available at the store, I ended up with cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, and seedless green grapes). Light, healthy, easy, and YUMMY!
Based on my Googling, many argue that Pasta al Pomodoro should be made with garden-fresh tomatoes. While that would be delicious, with the exception of a few weeks each year, I seldom have access to such bounty, so I took advantage of diced tinned tomatoes, which are affordable and readily available year ’round. And while I did use fresh basil leaves (we snagged a couple of basil plants for our herb garden while at the store), I think dried basil would be perfectly acceptable in this dish, also.
While I liked this delicious recipe from Bon Appetit, it was far and away too heavy for my tastes: too much oil, too much pasta. So, using it as a guide, I did my own (lighter) take on Spaghetti al Pomodoro. The meal turned out utterly delicious and will definitely be repeated on our menu. And while I’ve never been (at least not yet!) to Italy, much less Rome, we had a lovely meal al fresco, pretending we were on a Roman Holiday — the only thing missing was some Italian music! (Note to self: Search out a CD of Italian music.)
So the next time you’re wanting an easy, yummy, utterly delicious meal, go on a Roman Holiday and have Pasta al Pomodoro. (Go on, take a few moments from your day and watch — you know you want to!)
Pasta al Pomodoro (4 servings)
- Splash (1 to 2 tablespoons) olive or canola oil (or lightly spray or coat a non-stick skillet)
- 2 cans (14 – 15 ounces EACH) diced tomatoes (I used unsalted tomatoes)
- 1 small or 1/2 of a large onion, finely minced/diced (I whizzed it up in my wee food processor)
- Minced garlic to taste (I used a small spoonful of prepared minced garlic)
- Sprinkling of red pepper flakes to taste
- Splash or two of red wine (Optional, but I like a bit of wine in a pasta sauce)
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians: Leave out or use a substitute)
- Salt to taste (if using salted tinned tomatoes, leave out)
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- Fresh basil leaves or dried basil to taste (I used about 5 basil leaves)
- 8 ounces pasta (whatever you like — spaghetti, angel hair, penne, etc.), cooked al dente
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup pasta water
- In a food processor or blender, whiz UNDRAINED tomatoes into a puree (it will be like a rather thick and somewhat chunky tomato juice).
- Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté finely minced/diced onion until it it begins to caramelize (this will bring out the sweetness of the onion). Add in minced garlic and brown for a moment, then sprinkle in red pepper flakes. Deglaze pan with a splash or two of red wine (white would likely work, also).
- Reduce heat and stir tomatoes into skillet. Season with a light (and I do mean LIGHT) sprinkling of salt (I used coarse sea salt). (If your tinned tomatoes have salt, you will likely want to skip adding salt.) Add in a splash of Worcestershire sauce. (If using dried basil, add now.) Simmer, with a spatter lid or with lid cocked or vented lid open, stirring occasionally, until thickened — about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in torn, fresh basil leaves.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta to just under al dente in lightly salted water. (You’ll simmer the pasta with the sauce for a few minutes, which will cook it further, so you want it a bit less done than you might normally prepare it.)
- Drain the pasta, but reserve some of the starchy cooking water (the starchy pasta water will help “loosen” and also thicken the sauce). Toss the pasta and the butter with the sauce. Add in some of the pasta water and cook over low heat until heated through and of desired consistency — anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes.
- Dress each serving with some grated cheese (Parmesan or whatever you like), if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.