This authentic recipe and process that hails from the rustic kitchens of Northern Italy – a vibrant Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce, known locally as ‘Salsa di Pomodoro e Basilico’. This sauce is the heart of numerous Italian dishes, and mastering its creation can instantly elevate your culinary prowess. Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce is the first dish I learned to cook while living in Italy.
The full ingredients list and instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
About the Roma’s: they must be ripe; if you slice them open and they are not a nice red then the flavor will be affected. The riper the Roma, the more tomato flavor your sauce will have. For the best sauce, peel and de-seed the tomatoes; the purpose is a peeled tomato will provide a creamier fresh sauce. Also, removing the seeds from the tomatoes will avoid any bitter flavor. An easy way to peel the Roma tomatoes is by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute, remove with a slotted spoon, cooling them slightly, then pulling the skins off.
If you are short on time, then you can skip the peel and de-seed. However, I recommend at some point you try the above to determine for yourself if the extra 5 -10 minutes is worth it.
A bit about Basil: I shred and add half of the basil while simmering the tomatoes and the last half is shredded and tossed on top of the sauce. If you are short on time, you can use the frozen basil available from Trader Joe’s. Just don’t add the frozen basil at the last minute because it won’t cook properly.
Garlic: Easy peel your garlic by cutting off one tip and microwaving for a few seconds. This loosens the peel, and the clove will pop out nicely. Watch the garlic in the pan, don’t let the garlic overcook and turn brown. The Best Pasta For the pasta, please do not rinse, the starch remaining on the spaghetti after draining helps the sauce adhere to the spaghetti noodles. Also, don’t overcook the spaghetti.
Olive Oil: Use a good extra virgin olive oil but nothing too expensive. California Olive Ranch and Lucini are two of my favorite brands.
How to Make the Sauce
- Selection and Prepping of Tomatoes: Begin by hand-selecting your tomatoes. Go for those that are deeply colored, slightly soft to touch but not mushy. Rinse them thoroughly and cut a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato. This step aids in the blanching process, which is crucial for removing the skin.
- Blanching: Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute until the skin starts to peel away. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. The contrast in temperature makes it easy to peel the tomatoes. Remember, the aim is to remove the skin, not to cook the tomatoes.
- De-seeding and Crushing: After peeling, cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and gently squeeze to remove most seeds. Crushing the tomatoes by hand rather than using a processor helps retain a desirable rustic texture.
- The Sauté: Finely chop the onion and garlic. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until it’s soft and translucent, then add the garlic. Cook until it’s fragrant but be careful not to brown it as it can turn bitter.
- Simmering the Sauce: Add your hand-chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a handful of torn fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Let it simmer on low heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Final Touch: Once the sauce is thickened to your liking, taste and adjust the seasoning. Add a fresh sprig of basil for an aromatic uplift just before removing the sauce from heat. This adds a final layer of freshness to your sauce.
The magic of this Northern Italian Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce lies in the simplicity of its ingredients. Let the freshness of the tomatoes shine, the basil impart its sweet aroma, and the garlic and onion give that subtle depth.
Each step is vital in creating a sauce that exudes authenticity and is brimming with flavor. Remember, as the Italians say, “la cucina è un atto d’amore” – cooking is an act of love.
How to Cooke the Spaghetti
While I prepare my sauce ingredients, I have a large stockpot of boiling water at the ready. After the sauce is simmering on the stove, I’ll drop in the spaghetti and put my timer on for 10 minutes or the time indicated on the package. Bring the spaghetti to boil while stirring occasionally, then after about 2 minutes, cover the pot (don’t uncover until the timer minutes are up) and remove it from the burner, let sit until the timer goes off then check your spaghetti for doneness. If it needs a little more time, simply re-cover it and let sit for another minute or until the spaghetti is cooked to your taste.
More Single-Serving Pasta Recipes
Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce over Spaghetti
- 2 Medium size ripe Roma tomatoes-peel de-seed, and diced
- 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A handful of fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves –pressed
- Salt to taste
- Red pepper flakes optional
- 4- ounces Dry Spaghetti
- Grated Parmesan optional
- Fill a stockpot with water and cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Heat pan over medium heat, after heated add the olive oil.
- Add the diced onions and sauté until soft.
- Next add the garlic and stir with wooden spoon, don’t let the garlic turn brown.
- Add the diced Roma’s and sprinkle a little salt and basil and to bring out the flavor.
- Simmer for several minute , if it looks like its drying out turn down the heat a bit and add a tad more olive oil, then add the remaining basil.