My perfect spaghetti

I have already documented, extensively, my love for spaghetti. Though I will eat other types of pasta, I prefer it to other varieties for reasons ranging from the rational to the reasonably silly. 

I think it is the easiest pasta to cook, ergo the most difficult to mess up. Given a large pot of salted boiling water, a good fistful of spaghetti is dead easy to cook to a perfect al dente. It is easy to serve (with tongs, obviously, rather than my silly spaghetti server, which I think I might throw out today), holds sauce and flavour well, and is, most important I think, the most fun to eat.

I have a few tried and true flavour combos: roasted pumpkin, feta, pine nuts and parsley; and the zingy, zesty lemon, garlic and parmesan. But I think my absolute fave is another simple, tasty and classic combination of flavours - thus...

The Omnivore's perfect tomato and basil spaghetti

You will need;

- Enough dried spaghetti for who you are feeding - I usually find as much as I can fit in my fist comfortably is about right per person - and remember, it pretty well doubles in volume as it cooks. Buy the best you can afford, i.e. not the cheapest kind, but those really expensive types are probably a waste of time.

- A large pot of heavily salted boiling water.

- Some good olive oil.

- A splash of some good balsamic vinegar.

- A bunch of vine tomatoes, maybe eight or 10 medium sized (four or five each), still on the stalk (for some reason, the stalk seems to make the tomatoes more fragrant, more "tomato-ey").

- Three or four garlic cloves.

- A handful of basil leaves.

- A handful of toasted, coarse breadcrumbs (I save leftover baguette, cube it, toast it in the oven, and store the croutons in a sealed container - great in soup, and if you need crumbs, just give some of those a bit of a blitz).

- Some good grated or shaved parmesan chees.e

- Rock salt and ground black pepper to taste.


Put the tomatoes, vine and all, with some olive oil, the garlic cloves, some salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar in a medium temperature oven (180?) to roast. Should take 20-25 minutes.

While these are breaking down, you can shave or grate some parmesan, toast the breadcrumbs, and tear the basil.

Bring the big pot of water to the boil and add the spaghetti - should take 8-10 minutes, but basically, when it's cooked, it's cooked - when it still has some firmness, but it is no longer "raw", it is ready.

Drain the spaghetti through a sieve or colander - SAVE THE SALTY COOKING WATER! Tip the pasta back into the pot, give it a slug of olive oil to keep it loose and stop it from sticking.

Now, take the roasted tomatoes (plucked from the stalk) and garlic from the oven to the spaghetti, add salt and pepper and mix them all in together. I much prefer this to pasta with sauce just plonked on top - it seems to coat and flavour the spaghetti much better this way. Make sure you get out all the lovely gooey, tomato-ey oil from the roasting dish - this stuff is the most deliciously flavoursome, tangy and umami stuff there is.

Add a little of the starchy, salty cooking water to the spaghetti, and mix it through, till it is just "wet" enough. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tear up most of the basil - torn basil is less inclined to blacken than chopped basil - and mix it through.

Serve the spaghetti on warmed plates (a minute in the microwave!), and dress with the toasted breadcrumbs, shaved or grated parmesan and the rest of the basil, plus a splash of olive oil for good measure.

Too easy, and ultra tasty. I could eat this every night and never tire of it (I'm not going to, though). Give it a bash! 

What is your favourite quick pasta knock-up? Are you going to give my spaghetti recipe a shot? Any suggestions for additions? And - what is YOUR favourite variety of pasta?

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