Archive for July 16th, 2010

Back in the dim and distant past, when pasta was still a strange and unusual foodstuff, at least in our house (and well before I was married so probably still at school) I found this simple, inexpensive and useful recipe on the site of a spaghetti packet.  Sadly I have lost the original recipe but once made the basic recipe is not easily forgotten.

I think the herbs in the original were probably dried, I don’t think the peppers were included and I have a feeling that it was topped off with grated cheddar rather than parmesan cheese. My updated version uses fresh basil, which I always have available on the kitchen window sill and two diced peppers.  To serve I add freshly grated parmesan (I use Grano Padano rather than the more expensive Reggiano) and if unavailable then I substitute frozen grated parmesan from the freezer, but definitely not the dried powder in little boxes which is best left on the supermarket shelf!  For a spicier version substitute 1tbsp dried chilli peppers (or more for extra spice).  Piment d’Espelette from the French Basque country is regionally incorrect but still good, used in place of the basil.  This turns the recipe from Pasta Neapolitana into a fiery Pasta Arrabiata.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spaghetti Neapolitana
(Serves 3-4)

2tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
2 large cloves garlic
2 14oz/400g tins tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 large peppers (red or mixed colours, finely chopped)
2 large sprigs basil
1tsp vegetable stock powder (optional)
½tsp sugar
Salt & pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Basil to serve (reserved from above or additional)

2-3ozs/50-75g Spaghetti per person – I eat much less, say 1oz/25g

1.  Finely chop the onions, crush the garlic and fry gently in olive oil until transparent but not browned. 

2.  Chop the tinned tomatoes and add to the pan along with the tomato puree, stock powder (if using), most of the basil, sugar and diced peppers.  Season to taste. 

3.  Bring the tomato mixture to the boil and simmer gently in an uncovered pan until it has reduced to a thick sauce.  It is must better to simmer slowly so that the flavours can develop rather than reducing by boiling quickly.  (However, for a speedy meal, it is perfectly acceptable to cook this quickly as long as enough time is given for the ingredients to soften, although the flavours will not be as good.)

4.  While the tomato sauce is reducing, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water with a little oil to help stop the strands from sticking together.  When cooked (the strands should still ‘give’ a little – al dente (from the Italian ‘with bite’) – rather than very soft.  Drain and rinse with boiling water before serving a pile of spaghetti on each plate with a ‘well’ in the middle for the sauce.

5.  Serve the sauce onto the spaghetti (another small pasta shape can be substituted). Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and chopped or torn basil leaves.

Spaghetti Arrabiata – replace basil with ½-1tsp dried chilli peppers or ½tsp chilli powder.  Garnish with parsley and grated parmesan.

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