Simplicity resides at the core of Italian cuisine - Indeed, rather than relying on elaborate preparation and an extensive list of ingredients, Italian food emphasises a small number of ingredients. Each, however, should be of exceptional quality, for there is no place to hide.
This dish is one such example – the particular geographical qualities of Puglia render exquisite tomatoes – the sun-drenched earth, tempered by the cooling coastal breeze, makes the region a veritable haven for plants and produce. The bright tomatoes that serve as the base of this sauce are blended with fresh basil and fragrant garlic, and slowly simmered until thick and glossy, rendering a sauce with substance and exquisite flavour, despite its rustic simplicity.
The deft hands of Pugliese nonnas shape the iconic orecchiette pasta that pairs with this dish. A pasta bianca staple, the dough for this pasta consists of just flour and water - the rich egg pasta that is enjoyed in the north of Italy is far less common in the sun-drenched south, where a lighter pasta dough is favoured by the natives. The term orecchiette translates to ‘little ears’, a nod to the unique shape of this pasta. While commonplace on the streets of Bari, this pasta shape is loved nationwide, and is the perfect accompaniment to this rustic pomodoro.
Our tomato and basil sauce recipe
Prep time: 60 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 405kcal
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1kg cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
- 5-6 basil leaves, washed and chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 400g fresh orecchiette pasta - for ingredients, see this simple recipe
- Prepare your fresh orecchiette, using our easy guide or by following the video below.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Add crushed garlic cloves and brown until the oil is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and fry for another five minutes or so. Once the tomatoes have softened slightly, lightly crush the mixture, until it resembles a chunky sauce.
- Cover and simmer on a low to medium heat for around 40 minutes, until reduced. The sauce should be thick and shiny.
- Mix in the chopped basil and remove from the heat.
- Place a pan of generously salted water over a high heat. Once boiling, add your orecchiette, and cook for around 2 minutes. Strain the pasta and transfer to the tomato sauce, tossing the mixture until well combined. If needed, you can always loosen your sauce with a tablespoon or so of the starchy pasta water.
- Once combined, plate, top with a few shreds of fresh basil and serve. Buon appetito!
Which pasta pairs well with tomato and basil sauce?
When it comes to pairing pasta and sauce, a tomato and basil sauce is extremely accommodating; there are very few pasta shapes it won’t work with. That said, shorter shapes – whether tubes (penne or rigatoni), twists (fusilli) or shells (like the orecchiette we’ve chosen) – all work particularly well, as their holes, grooves and twists are excellent at catching the smooth sauce. Alternatively, longer strand pastas like spaghetti and linguine pair well with medium-bodied sauces, so are ideally suited to a tomato sugo. The only shapes to avoid are thicker ribbons (like tagliatelle and pappardelle) as their wider surface area is better suited to chunkier sauces.