This is a tribute to simple Italian cooking. Pasta and tomato sauce, nothing else. But what about the balls I see in the picture, you think. Those are optional. They’re really good, but this pasta al pomodoro will hold its own without them.
I had this recipe and blog ready a few weeks ago. But then I visited Sicily with my mother and I realized I did it all wrong. My recipe was simple, but not simple enough while at the same too hurried. I had a lot of pasta al pomodoro e basilico there and each one was just delicious. Not too many ingredients, just damn good tomatoes and some patience. Because when talking with the Sicilians I realized even more, good food should not be rushed.
Italian superstars in the making
I love how Italian food just makes a star out of simple, high quality ingredients. For instance, when I visited Rome a few years ago and I tried fried artichokes. Or when I went to top chef Locatelli‘s restaurant in Londen with my mother last year (we take a trip on her birthday every year) and had a superb pea risotto with fresh grated truffle.
6 ingredient tomato sauce
I got plenty more examples, but the best is just plain and simple Italian pasta with tomato sauce. I used to make a bolognese type sauce and chucked in everything I could find. Probably because my father used to own a French restaurant and the French are considerably less minimalistic in their cooking. After I stopped eating meat I had to learn to cook al over and I since came to prefer a more simple approach.
Meat eater senza carne
I still consider myself a meat eater even though I became a vegan 2 years ago and stopped eating meat a few years before that. I have three good reasons to be vegan and taste is not one of them. That’s why I veganize (and improve) a lot of dishes I used to make when I still ate meat. I also think it helps to introduce people to vegan dishes to make it look like something they recognize.
That being said. I really like how Vegan Animal and Squatcilla explained in their vlog (in Dutch, subtitles available) how meat substitutes don’t necessarily look like meat because meat in itself is not naturally ball, burger or hotdog shaped.
I’m going to continue to make simple dishes. I’m also going to continue to make meat (and fish!) substitutes and I’ll try to make to those as simple as possible too. Got any requests? Let me know!
Pasta al Pomodoro e Basilio (and no-meatballs)
Italian cooking is absolutely delicious in its simplicity. Just don't rush it. The additional no-meatballs are a great bonus, but you can skip them if you want and eat your pasta al pomodoro straight up.
Pasta + Tomato Sauce
- 1 packet spaghetti Or pasta. About 250 g.
- 1 onion A small one
- 1 tbsp mild olive oil
- 2 cans peeled tomatoes 800 g total
- 1/2 tsp maple syrup Or 1 tsp sugar
- 3 stems fresh basil Hold the leaves for garnish
- 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 can black beans Rinsed and leaked
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 onion Medium size
- 2 tbsp oats
- 4 tbsp bread crumbs + extra for rolling the balls
- 3 to 4 tbsp mild olive oil For frying
Pasta + Tomato Sauce
Cook the pasta. Rinse briefly with cold water and add some olive oil if you like.
Peel the onion and chop it into tiny bits. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and soften the onion for at least 5 minutes at low to medium heat. The onion has to be soft but not burnt. Pick the leaves of the basil stems and cut up the stems. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, syrup and basil stems.
Reduce the heat and let it simmer uncovered for 40 - 45 minutes while stirring occasionally. The sauce has to be properly thickened. Tear up the basil leaves and add them to the sauce, maybe with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you like.
Peel the onion and garlic. Add them with all the other ingredients for the balls to a kitchen processor or high speed blender and pulse until it turns into doughy substance. Add more bread crumbs if the mixture is too wet to make balls.
Roll 1,5 inch (3 cm) balls and roll them through some extra bread crumbs.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the balls while stirring in about 5 to 10 minutes.