Pomodoro simply means “tomato” in Italian. This pasta is basically just that, pasta and tomatoes. This dish embodies the core philosophy of great Italian cooking: Few ingredients at their peak equals lots of flavor. I watched Michela Pazzanese at her home in Vico Equense, Italy, put this pasta together in no time flat. It was Michela who taught me the importance of slicing the garlic for this dish. The success of my take on this dish relied on maximizing the small amount of oil by infusing it with the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and basil. This way the oil is able to carry the flavors across the palate. When using top-quality ingredients, the cook’s work becomes an exercise in restraint: highlighting the natural flavors rather than masking them by adding more ingredients. Use any kind of tomatoes that are available to you so long as they are very ripe. Dice large tomatoes; grape tomatoes can be tossed right in whole.
100% Kamut Integrale spaghetti, such as Alce Nero
extra virgin olive oil
clove garlic, thinly sliced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
very ripe tomatoes, diced
freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the spaghetti and cook less than al dente, about 6 minutes, stirring after the first minute to avoid sticking. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water.
Pour the olive oil into a large nonstick skillet. Spread the garlic slices evenly over the skillet (see page 32). Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the garlic begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium, add the red pepper flakes and half the basil leaves, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until the sauce comes to a simmer and has slightly thickened, about 2 to 5 minutes. Add half of the Parmigiano and stir it completely into the sauce. Turn off the heat and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Add the pasta and the reserved pasta cooking water. Raise the heat to medium-high and, using a heat-resistant rubber spatula, toss the pasta with the sauce. Cook until the sauce coats the pasta and the noodles are just cooked. Add the remaining basil and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
Divide the pasta among 4 plates and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano.
Tip: Use overripe tomatoes.If they're impossible to find, choose another dish. This one is all about the tomatoes.