It’s no secret to my friends and family that pasta is my favorite food. Not any specific pasta, not any particularly sauce, if there are noodles I am a happy girl. I wasn’t always the pasta afficionado I am today. As a child I despised spaghetti, it was always over sauced and overcooked, but I didn’t know that then. I just knew I didn’t like it.
On my first trip to Italy as a preteen, my noodle world was shaken. I site this specific trip as the first time I began to be interested in food. I was surrounded by pasta that was cooked correctly and sauced correctly. Suddenly I had gone from a pasta refuser to pasta obsessed. I tinkered in the kitchen with the permission of my mom (thanks mom!!) trying to recreate what I had experienced overseas. It would take me years to perfect my technique (still working on it…always), but those were happy childhood memories.
One dish that always confounded me was the Italian American tomato sauce. Until very recently I regarded all tomato sauce as trash. Why is it sweet? Why doesn’t it actually taste like tomatoes? To me, an all day cooked tomato sauce more closely resembles ketchup than fresh tomatoes. I know I’m in the minority, but I do not care for ketchup, and I do not care for all day stewed tomatoes.
This spring I was presented with a beautiful basket of ripe tomatoes from my neighbor’s abundant harvest. There were simply too many to eat, and I had to figure out a solution. I’ve seen a version of butter roasted tomato sauce all over the internet for about a decade. I never dabbled because I simply do not like cooked tomatoes, I had determined. A tomato sauce was not meant to be a part of my repetoire. But now I had a tomato predicament, and needed to act fast.
Bon Appetit has a recipe that served as a loose inspiration for my version. Garlic, tomatoes, butter and anchovies make the back bone of this wonderful bright tomato-ey sauce. We are not talking about grandma’s Sunday sauce here (which certainly has a place in the hearts of America), but instead a celebration of my favorite summer (spring in Florida) fruit, the tomato. Roasting the tomatoes in butter preserves the tomato flavor, while garlic and anchovies hold hands in the background and enhance the complexity of the sauce. I add a generous topping of salt and a sprinkle of sugar to round out the flavor and roast away.
Once the tomatoes become roasted and almost jammy I remove the pan. You could stop at this point and add the sauce in this stage to pasta and have beautiful chunks of tomatoes dotted throughout your spaghetti, or you could do what I do and toss it all into the Vitamix and blend until the texture of velvet. I’ve recently begun letting it sit in the fridge overnight, and this final step adds a deeper complexity to the sauce. It’s an optional step, as the sauce is truly lovely fresh out of the oven. There is really no wrong way to enjoy this sauce, and it could not be simpler. It has swiftly become my favorite way to feed a crowd, its speedy and affordable and tastes of Italy.
- 2-3 Containers of Fresh Tomatoes – you can use several different varieties if you like
- 7 Cloves of Garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1/2 Stick of Butter, cubed
- 10 Anchovies
- 2 Large Pinches of Salt
- 2 Large Pinches of Sugar
- 1 lb Spaghetti
- Ricotta (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400
- Dump tomatoes, garlic, butter, anchovies, salt and sugar into a large casserole dish
- Place the mixture in the oven and roasted until the tomatoes are almost jammy, about 1 hour. (you could do a little more or a little less, this dish is very forgiving)
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
- Transfer mixture into a blender and blend until smooth
- Refrigerate the blended mixture in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to continue to fuse (optional)
- When you are ready to serve your guests, warm the tomato sauce in a large pan
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and generously salt the water. The water should be as salty as the ocean
- Add spaghetti and cook to al dente. The noodle should be a little chewy.
- Drain the spaghetti and add to the warmed tomato sauce. Toss to coat.
- Serve with grated parmesan and a dollop of ricotta cheese.