Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

I would have never thought to publish this recipe on my blog and also after deciding to do it, while I'm writing I still find it somehow weird. But don't get me wrong! I'm not going to share a bizarre, unappetizing or exotic recipe.
On the contrary this is a kind of dish that usually gets universal consensus, and I would also say it's one my favs when it comes to make or eat pasta. But as it is so simple, fast, fuss free - yet delicious - I find it difficult to consider this a "real" recipe, at least in the sense I usually mean: a precise, detailed list of ingredients and preparation steps to guide any cook in the realization and presentation of a dish. Here you need just few ingredients, usually available in most kitchens with maybe the only exception of fresh cherry tomatoes and basil (which, I'm afraid, are the main ingredients though), the requested amount of which is more indicative than mandatory (more or less of anything results in a good dish anyway); the preparation is absolutely feasible for anyone and it takes less than 30 minutes, including washing and preparing all ingredients (time never considered in recipes).
For all these reasons it is one of my favorite dishes for an impromptu meal, in particular when I am not in the mood for cooking (and above all for cleaning the kitchen after) but at the same time want to eat something good (and possibly healthy, and light maybe) but I don't feel like ordering from a home delivery place (where the healthy and light choice is not usually that wide).
And this was exactly the case last time I made it: last Saturday Dubai was under a sandstorm, my son was not feeling very well, me and my husband had a cold too, that meaning we were all forced to stay at home (while we usually like to go out on weekends). Around lunch time my husband - who knows I don't like to stay at home and cook on weekends - asked me whether I wanted to order something from outside, maybe a pizza; I know he likes pizza but, I'm sorry, I don't much and always prefer something else. And so it was the other day.
As I had bought delicious, ripe tomatoes from the Farmers Market on Friday (the season is at its best now) I decided that a pasta with juicy, sweet cherry tomatoes would have been much better than a probably just lightly warm and chewy pizza. And also my son, who is very selective with food and often difficult to please, enjoyed some.
Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil
When I make this pasta I sometimes add some chili directly in the pan with tomatoes for a spicy touch; last time I omitted because of my son eating with us. But my husband likes chili in this pasta, and also in other recipes, so he added some chili flavored extra virgin olive oil, that I like to prepare and keep in my pantry: it is very easy to make yet versatile, as it can be added directly on the plated food so that each table mate can adjust the amount according to his / her own taste for hot dishes (read below for how to make it).
The only advice I want to give when making this pasta is to use fresh, ripe, good tomatoes, because the result depends mainly on their quality and flavor; this is a general rule but it is even more important when the recipe requires few ingredients, prepared in a simple way, exactly like in this case.
Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil
serves 2
160 -200 g spaghetti
20 -25 ripe cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
10 -15 basil leaves
grated Parmigiano Reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
red chili, roughly chopped (optional)
Fill a large pot with water (about 100 ml per each 100 g spaghetti) and bring to the boil. When it gets to a boil, add some coarse salt, then drop the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until more than al dente (it will finish cooking in the sauce).
While spaghetti are boiling, in a large nonstick sauté pan, heat three tablespoon olive oil with the garlic gloves (and chili if using) then add the halved tomatoes, a pinch of salt and sauté over a medium-high heat until start to soften and release their juices, but not longer than 5 to 6 minutes (they have to keep their shape). Remove the garlic, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the spaghetti to the pan with the tomatoes and, keeping the heat medium-high, toss them with a little of the cooking water to create a creamy emulsion. Also add a little additional olive oil and stir. Remove from the heat, add the basil torn using hand, reserving some for garnishing, and mix. 
Divide between the plates, add the grated parmigiano, garnish with the reserved basil and serve straightway.  
The addition of chili is optional; in case one or more of your guests can't or won't eat chili (for example if you have young children like me), instead of adding chili in the pan you can use homemade chili flavored extra-virgin olive oil.
How to prepare chili flavored extra-virgin olive oil: wash and pat dry some red chilies and leave them at room temperature until they are completely dry (you can skip this step using store bought dried chili or chili flakes, but I prefer to make from scratch). In a clean, dry glass bottle - possibly dark, as olive oil is very sensitive to the light - add the dried chilies roughly chopped and all their seeds (use gloves or wash well your hands after touching the chili)  then cover with extra virgin olive oil. Close and let rest for few weeks before using.  As the flavor of chili may differ depending on the variety and the ripeness, I usually add just enough oil to cover chili; after few weeks I taste and add more oil if it is too hot (the flavor becomes more and more intense with time). Then you can add more dried chili and/or more oil afterwards depending on the flavor and the consumption.  
Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil


  1. I make this all the time just now when the tomatoes are super ripe. So easy and so delicious. Lovely recipe and pics.

    1. Thank you Sally! And you're right, tomatoes now are fantastic! I buy, and eat, tons every week ...