Back to Basics – Pasta al Pomodoro

Why Pasta is Always Good in Italy

For all the variety, in the end, Italian cooking is simple. It all seems to boil down to finding good ingredients, and letting them loose. This is why the foundation of pasta dishes – Pasta al Pomodoro (pomodoro means tomato) can be so surprisingly good. If the tomatoes are full of flavor, if the basil is fresh, if you use good olive oil (only olive oil will do) for the soffritto (the diced carrots, celery, garlic, onion or other ingredients simmered in oil before the tomatoes or tomato sauce is added), if you cook the pasta al dente ( ) and don’t drown it out with too much sauce, even this, the simplest of Italian dishes will sing.

There are no absolute rules other than to care deeply about the ingredients you choose and care for what you are doing, even if you are whipping up a last-minute spaghetti and tomato sauce (one can be done in less than 20 minutes. For the simplest of tomato sauces, the rules and traditions vary from region to region, family to family. Is it best to simmer bottled sauce for hours or heat up freshly picked diced August tomatoes to get the spices (oregano, basil, hot pepper, whatever) to blend in? There are no absolutes. As long as the end result is good.

Italians, like people from other Mediterranean countries, still try do buy at least part of the the food they eat food daily – and in season. The pressures of busy work schedules, traffic, and the presence of large refrigerators and freezers in most households have cut into this, but most people I’ve met try to fight the temptation, at least a little. Planning your meal from what’s in season locally may be the trend now, but it’s just getting back to the basics over here.

The other rule is that sometimes the recipe’s origin’s count. Pasta alla Puttanesca, legend has it, was a meal prostitutes (puttanea means prostitute) would prepare for their clients – usually with what they had around the appartment. So the original ingredients are canned, bottled, or under salt: canned tomatoes, drained capers and olives, a diced onion, oregano, salt, and a few strips of anchovies. Some recipes say the anchovies are optional. I don’t agree, but if you don’t like anchovies, garlic or onions, by all means leave them out. But for me that would be missing out on three or the world most slandered pleasures.

You can make Pasta alla Puttanesca with all fresh ingredients, but I would be tempted to change the name. Pasta all’Escort?

– Joshua Lawrence

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on

Spaghetti on Foodista

Tomato Sauce on Foodista


One response to “Back to Basics – Pasta al Pomodoro

  1. Planning on getting to L’Aquila on my next visit to Abruzzo. Very informative.

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