Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

2 lbs of a short pasta (I used gigli)

a very good extra virgin olive oil, preferably a high-quality import

several very ripe tomatoes – I had about a pound of grape tomatoes and 6 medium-large
2 shallots
3 garlic cloves
1 t red chilli flakes
1/2 dry white wine
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
4 large stems fresh basil
Pecorino Romano

kosher salt
black pepper

Dice the tomatoes and put into a large saucepan or pot. Cook uncovered on medium heat for 30-45 minutes until very soft and juicy, but not long enough to thicken the sauce too much or remove the fresh flavour of the tomatoes. Mince the shallots and garlic. Sauté the shallots in olive oil for a few minutes, seasoning with kosher salt so they sweat, as well as freshly ground black pepper. Then add in the garlic and red chilli flakes, sauté a few minutes more until the shallots and garlic are soft, and add in the wine, reducing until nearly evaporated. Then add in the tomato sauce. Roughly chop the parsley and half of the basil. Check the sauce for salt, and add quite a bit more here. Add 3/4 of the parsley and all the chopped basil, and simmer for a few minutes.

While the tomato sauce simmers, cook the pasta to al dente according to the directions on the packaging, being certain to season the water well with kosher salt as soon as it reaches boiling. Chiffonade the remaining half of the basil and grate the cheese.

As soon as the pasta is cooked (al dente!) drain, drizzle with olive oil, and again check the sauce for saltiness. It is very, very easy to under-salt fresh tomato sauce, so be very liberal with your salting. Add the pasta to the sauce.

When serving, top with cheese, chiffonade of basil, a sprinkling of parsley, and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil, as well as a final sprinkle of kosher salt.

The flavour of this sauce is really quite amazing, and completely different from a tomato sauce made from canned or jarred tomatoes. You don’t want to cook the sauce very long at all, and want the herbs to still taste fresh. Make sure to use authentic, sheep’s-milk pecorino romano, not the weird stuff they call romano in American stores that tastes exactly like what they claim is parmesan and asiago – all of it is nothing compared to the real thing. A good Italian import is what is wanted, and it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Go to your local Italian speciality grocery or cheese monger, and ask to sample their cheeses, which they should gladly do. You should also ask to sample the olive oil, trying several before you purchase (as well as balsamic vinegar).

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