First of all, Tucci is 7 different kinds of amazing, and Big Night is one of my top 10 movies of all time. But also, there’s something about this series that helps to fill the hole in my heart left by Anthony Boudain.
Also, c’mon! It’s Italy! It’s food! We can’t travel right now! It’s everything we need.
In the first episode, Tucci talked about San Marzano tomatoes. Now, of course I knew about San Marzanos. I’d likely had them on a pizza or two. But I’d never gone out of my way to buy them, nor did I realize there was a black market for them.
So after viewing that episode, I was determined to find authentic San Marzanos and cook with them. You know, for science.
For a city with such a big Italian population, you’d think they’d be easier to find, but not so much. I did finally source them at Donald’s Market, and, surprisingly, Costco. Costco was the better deal (shocker). Here’s how to know if your San Marzanos are the real deal.
Now it was time to cook. For inspiration, I turned to Samin Nosrat. This is a recipe adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.
Pasta a la Pomarola is a super simple, pantry-staple Tuscan-inspired tomato sauce that’s perfect for these days. We can’t travel, we have to be careful and not go to the grocery store too often, and we want something comforting and soul-satisfying. This checks all those boxes.
Pasta a la Pomarola takes a while to make, but it’s not hard. It just needs a little time to make its particular brand of magic.
I added spinach to mine, though it’s not traditional.
Pasta a la Pomarola
- 1/2 cup Good quality EVOO (divided)
- 1 large yellow or red onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes, placed in a bowl and squished with your hands
- 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves chopped
- 1 cup fresh spinach, packed
- 250 g pasta (I used penne)
- parmesan or pecorino (or the vegan equivalent), optional
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom. Heat until the oil shimmers, then add your onions. Season with salt and reduce the heat. Allow to sweat out until the onions are soft and translucent. This will take about 10 minutes. If the onions start to brown, reduce the heat some more and add a little water.
- Once the onions are cooked, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, just until fragrant, then add the tomatoes. Fill the can that the tomatoes were in about halfway up with water, and swish it around well to get all the juices, then add that to the pot as well. Bring back up to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and stir well.
- Allow the sauce to cook for about 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, and making sure it is just simmering, as you don’t want it to burn.
- Once the tomatoes are cooked and have turned a darker red, become thicker and don’t taste raw anymore, turn up the heat and stir in 1/3 cup olive oil as well as the spinach. Stir and boil until the sauce is glossy and smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Cover and set aside on the back of the stove to keep warm.
- In a medium saucepan, heat up to the boil a large quantity of well-salted water. When the water boils, add your pasta to it and stir well. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta but reserve the cooking water.
- Place the pasta back into the pot over low heat and start adding tomato sauce to it by the ladleful, adding pasta water as well. Stir and mix together until you get your desired consistency of sauce.
- Spoon into bowls and serve with gratings of your desired cheese.