This one’s for my dad. You see, Monday is “Pasta Night” at my parents’ house. This is my mother’s guarantee to my father that he will sit down to a bowl of spaghetti (his first choice), ideally with some version of tomato sauce, at a minimum of once a week. My father is a picky eater and when my mother complains of this (I would have thrown in the towel long ago), my father protests, “Just give me pasta every night and I’ll be happy.”
I have inherited this pasta-loving gene from my dad and like him, a good marinara is my absolute favorite. It’s safe to say that this is my “comfort food.” Sadly, my husband does not share this appreciation, so pasta is relegated to the occasional. I am repeatedly baffled by Gary’s lackluster response to sauces that I believe hit the mark. Undeterred, I continue on my decade-long quest to uncover a tomato sauce that will convert him into a believer.
Well, it would be an exaggeration to claim that angels sang when I served this dish last week. No, that was not the case but Gary did seem to like this sauce more than others and he even went for seconds. I thought the sauce was brilliant (you can take that with a grain of salt but let’s just say that it was very good) and incredibly simple. I found the recipe in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit and adapted it slightly. The original recipe calls for bucatini (a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running down the center) which I didn’t have on-hand so I used spaghetti. I decreased the amount of butter and substituted a chiffonade of basil for the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Even with this slight “lightening” the dish was delicious.
For those who turn up their noses at the thought of anchovies, this sauce may not be for you. You actually can taste the anchovies–which is not always the case. Often times anchovies are a secret weapon, a layer of flavor that can’t be pinpointed. If you like anchovies, or tolerate them, make this recipe tonight! I know that my mother will and I can’t wait to hear my father’s review.
NOTE: This recipe is based on 12 ounces of pasta which I find a bit annoying because I prefer to cook the whole box and I also like a generous amount of sauce. I prepared it as is and had enough sauce for just what it claims–about 3/4 of a box. Next time, I will double the sauce recipe, cook a full pound of pasta and have leftovers of both. The sauce can always be frozen and reheated for a later use.
- 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
- 2 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
- 1/8 c (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces--or 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, if you want to replicate the original recipe
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 12 oz spaghetti
- finely grated Parmesan, for serving, if desired
- shredded basil, optional
- Preheat oven to 425F. Combine tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies, butter and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in a 13"x9" baking dish; season lightly with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is jammy, 35-40 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, mash to break up garlic and tomatoes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.
- Return pasta to pot and add tomato sauce and pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with more red pepper flakes and topped with Parmesan, shredded basil or both.