Spaghetti with Cherry Tomato Sauce and Basil

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When I think of the Amalfi Coast of Italy, with it’s dramatic coastline and picturesque seaside towns, I recall so many happy memories with family and friends.  My mind will forever hold on to my “mental snapshots” of the moments shared in this special place.  From the Isle of Capri, to the beautiful city of Sorrento, to the cultural hilltop town of Ravello, and the magical town of Positano, I remember the magnificent coastline and the warmth of the people.  And driving this coastline is an experience one can never forget!

I think you know me well enough by now, to expect that some of my fondest memories of the Amalfi Coast must be of food.  And you would be right.  It is a “foodie” heaven.  We first tasted this simple sauce of tiny tomatoes and basil 23 years ago on the Isle of Capri.  We were enjoying a day at the beach, and walked into a small restaurant right there, overlooking the rocky beach.  My husband and his brother ordered this simple pasta dish as a first course.  It was so unbelievably delicious, that they both ordered it again as their second course!  Yes, that’s a true story, and yes, it was that delicious.  It was just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, but we couldn’t understand how it could taste this good.  A few years later, I asked a restauranteur in Ravello how he made this sauce so tasty.    He took us into the kitchen and showed us just how simple it really was.  Of course, the freshness of the ingredients is a key factor.  The soil in Italy produces tomatoes that taste a bit different from what we grow here in the states.  But we are now able to get delicious cherry tomatoes here, and I honestly sometimes feel that I am back in Amalfi when I make this sauce. Even the aroma of the tomatoes and basil cooking brings me back.  It is so simple and quick to make.  It cannot fail. Just use the best ingredients you can get, and you will have a dish that everyone will rave about, and it will only have taken you 30 minutes to make….at most.

RECIPE:

1 pound of spaghetti

2 1/2 pounds of cherry tomatoes, halved (I love to mix in some small yellow tomatoes )

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 TBSP extra for tossing

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup basil leaves, roughly torn (never use a knife) in half, and reserve several whole for garnish on each plate

1 tsp sea salt

freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmigiano

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2.  In a large saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil.  Add the tomatoes, garlic and salt.  Stir. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally.

3.  The tomatoes will break down and get creamy in about 15 to 20 minutes. Add half the torn basil leaves and cook for several minutes more.

4.  Drain pasta and put in serving bowl.  Drizzle with the 2 TBSP of oil and the rest of the torn basil leaves and toss.

5.  Add the tomatoes to the pasta and some grated cheese and toss well.

6.  Top each dish with some fresh basil and serve additional grated cheese.

** A variation on this dish is to use the very tiny grape tomatoes and do not cut in half.  They will burst while cooking in the oil.  I prefer the creaminess of the cherry tomatoes, but you may just get sick of making this dish (doubt it) and want to try something just a little different.

Welcome to the Amalfi Coast!  Buon Appetito!

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