Growing up we had versions of sauce that cooked for hours or contained onions and other herbs. After experimenting, I settled on my own pared-down recipe in Italy years ago when we were staying in a little farmhouse on top of the hill in Pedona di Camaiore in Tuscany. When not cooking ourselves, we'd walk over to the only little restaurant in town called II Soggiorno carrying our pasta serving bowl. There, they'd fill our bowl with the evening's special pasta and we'd head back home to eat so our then two-year-old firstborn boy, Calder, could sleep. The secret to their sauce is using just a few of the best ingredients cooked briefly. I use this sauce for lasagna, baked ziti or anytime a basic red sauce is required.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 28-ounce can best-quality whole tomatoes, lightly pulsed in a blender
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Small pinch of sugar
- 1 sprig fresh basil
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Place the olive oil and garlic in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan to coat the garlic with oil and heat until garlic sizzles but doesn’t brown, about 30 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and stir. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 20 minutes but no more than 30. Add the basil for last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove the basil before serving.
- Meanwhile, with 10 minutes to spare before the sauce is done, generously salt the boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until tender but slightly firm. Set the timer for 2 minutes less than the package instructions specify and taste for doneness. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a serving bowl. Toss with 1/2 cup of the sauce. For each serving, spoon on a little extra sauce, grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper on top of the pasta.