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People who know me well, know how much I love pasta. It’s a weakness, and it is probably the only food I cannot turn down no matter what. I try to limit it to only once a week, and I usually stick to this, otherwise it gets out of control. But everytime I make pasta I have to make sure there is enough for everyone and for my second serve too, haha! I need to work on controlling my portions, that’s for sure!

Some people think that I am contradicting myself a little when I always encourage healthy eating but at the same time I can thoroughly enjoy a bowl of pasta and keep talking about how delicious it was. I don’t think there is any contradiction here, yes I do agree that it’s not good for your body to have pasta so often because it’s high in carbs and can affect your insulin levels, but I think moderation is the key to a balanced and happy life, and I guess it’s ok to admit that we all have a soft spot for certain foods, foods that make us feel warm, comfy and happy. I believe it’s important that we allow ourselves (sometimes) to enjoy the food we love the most, in moderation of course, as long as we keep in mind that our daily diet is full of balanced nutrients coming from real ingredients that actually nourish our bodies and make us feel good.

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For me, the joy of eating a simple bowl of pasta like this one is in bringing back so many childhood memories of my mother standing in the kitchen, stirring pasta in boiling water. The tomato sauce would be sizzling in the pan, splashing everywhere and she would be trying to grab a lid but would always fail to find the right size at the right time (I blame her for my clumsiness). I remember I used to sneak around behind her back after she had just drained the cooked pasta, and I would start eating the plain pasta before it went into the sauce, she would then notice and start boiling some more for us with a smile on her face. She used to call me the Pasta Monster!
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This oven baked tomato sauce is one of our favourites indeed. Simple to make and very delicious when added to pasta. In this recipe you will let the oven make the magic for you. Baking the cherry tomatoes along with fresh basil leaves and garlic intensifies the flavours and creates a unique taste and texture to your sauce, that you wouldn’t not be able to achieve using the stove. I love making this pasta dish on a slow paced Sunday for lunch or dinner when I can be doing things in the house while these tomatoes are slowly roasting in the oven.

You could possibly replace these freshly roasted tomatoes with good quality sundried tomatoes from a jar (for a quicker option), and then continue with rest of the recipe, but I personally prefer to roast my tomatoes when I can. This recipe would be a great idea when you have a bunch of over-ripe tomatoes in your basket and you want to use them up before they are too soft to be eaten raw.

Here are some tips that I have learnt from the experts on how to cook, eat and serve pasta like an Italian:

  • Choose a large sized pan for cooking your pasta, wide and high, because you must use plenty of water (approx. 1 litre of water to 100 g of pasta).
  • You need a lid for your pan, because as soon as you add your pasta to the boiling water you will have to cover the pan briefly to bring back the water to the boil as quickly as possible. Once you reach the boiling point again you can remove the lid and let the water boil.
  • Add a generous amount of salt to water just before it starts boiling, around 2 teaspoons of sea salt to each litre of water.
  • You DON’T need to add oil to cooking water, to avoid pasta sticking together all you need to do is to stir a few times during cooking.
  • al dente which means ‘to the tooth’ is a term Italians use to describe their pasta as being not soft but not stiff and that’s how most Italians prefer to eat it. It’s hard to get it perfectly al dente but the best way to test it is to use the good old method of removing a piece or a strand of pasta with your fork towards the end of the suggested cooking time, cool a little and then bite on it, it should bite easily but with a little resistance to the tooth, that’s when you know it’s ready.
  • Never rinse your pasta with hot or cold water, it loses the starch coating on it and this affects the consistency of the sauce and how it coats the pasta strands or pieces.
  • Always have the pasta sauce ready by the time the pasta is cooked and drained, you don’t want the pasta to start sticking together as it cools down.
  • Always keep some of the cooking water on the side in case you need to add some to the pasta, if it starts sticking, also if your pasta sauce is too thick adding a few tablespoons of cooking water to it could solve your problem.
  • Serve pasta (except seafood ones) with a piece of old parmesan cheese and a grater, let your guests help themselves by adding the final touches to their dish. It’s always the exciting and fun part.
  • Please don’t cut your long strands of pasta into small pieces so that you can eat it using a spoon, at least not when I’m dining with you, because this is an offence against pasta!! Grab spaghetti with a fork, twirl, twirl and twirl against the side of the bowl then lift and eat, you can use a spoon to help you hold the strands on the fork. By the way, I’ve recently come across a product called ‘motorized twirling fork for spaghetti’ that you can order online!! I couldn’t believe it, is this how lazy people have become these days ?? haha!

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Oven-baked tomato and basil sauce
Serves 4
a delicious oven-baked tomato sauce with basil and garlic
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 g spelt spiral or fusilli pasta
IN THE OVEN
  1. 600 g ripe cherry tomatoes,halved
  2. 4-5 unpeeled garlic cloves
  3. leaves of 1 bunch of fresh basil, reserve some leaves for serving
  4. 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  6. ON THE STOVE
  7. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  8. 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  9. 4 tablespoons filtered water
  10. sea salt to taste
TO SERVE
  1. extra fresh basil leaves
  2. a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  3. grated parmesan cheese (optional)
IN THE OVEN
  1. preheat oven to 170-180 degrees Celsius.
  2. place a large roasting tray covered with baking paper in the oven to get hot.
  3. meanwhile, place prepared cherry tomatoes in a bowl with the rest of the (in the oven) ingredients, reserve some fresh leaves for serving.
  4. stir all ingredients in the bowl (I use my hands) until all tomatoes are covered with olive oil.
  5. transfer tomatoes mix to the hot tray and return to oven, leave to roast on the middle rack of the oven for 50-60 mins or until the tomatoes are wrinkly but still soft.(at this stage there shouldn't be much moisture in the tray the liquid should look oily more than watery)
  6. NOTE: time will vary according to the type and size of tomatoes, so better to check on them half way through baking.
  7. 10 mins before tomatoes are ready, start cooking your pasta according to packet instructions. *see tips for cooking pasta in the post above.
  8. remove tray from the oven.
ON THE STOVE
  1. unpeel the soft roasted garlic, smash it with a fork and chop it finely.
  2. to a large pan, add the olive oil, smashed garlic and stir on low heat for 1-2 min until it starts sizzling, add the tomato paste, stir for a further min then add the water and turn heat up to medium.
  3. when the sauce starts to bubble up and thickens (1-2 mins), add the roasted tomatoes and basil from the tray. (make sure you add all the liquid left in the tray, it's full of flavour)
  4. mix gently but avoid over mixing, taste and adjust seasoning now. (add sea salt if needed)
  5. drain cooked pasta (don't rinse pasta) and then add it to your hot sauce in the pan.
  6. remove from heat.
  7. mix pasta with sauce and serve with extra fresh basil leaves a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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