my perfect tomato sugo (strozzapreti con carciofi)

someone please tell me why something as delicious and satisfying as pasta can probably be bad? i mean, in terms of diet? i mean, when i’ve had a really bad day, all i will is a plate of simple, home-made pasta to feel at peace with the world again. pasta-happy!

and strozzapreti, ooh, they are my all time favorite pasta (maybe orecchiette, too). they are usually firm and with a lot of substance. and when you add something nice to them, like the perfect home-made sugo* (made from passata, with herbs and a great olive oil and fresh garlic) then, hmm… likeylikey.

*note: i could well write a whole book on home-made tomato sugo… but to keep things short, let me just point out the necessity of using passata (i.e. cooked, pureed and bottled tomato without anything else than tomato) as a basis. it’s vital for a perfect sugo. it will turn your sugo into a creamy and tasty italian experience. so that’s why i share my perfect sugo recipe with you; because i just want you to be pasta-happy. just like me.

my perfect tomato sugo (strozzapreti con carciofi)
serves four

1 bottle (equals 1 l) of passata
1 small onion, thinly chopped
2 fresh garlic cloves (if you don’t have a fresh one use only one), minced
small piece of peperoncino, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
stems of basil, flat parsley and oregano, leaves removed
1 tbsp. of rosemary leaves, minced

1 laurel leaf
1 pinch of sugar
salt, pepper

750 g of strozzapreti (or any other pasta)

1 glass canned carciofi in olive oil (the good kind) torn apart into chunks
mozzarella, torn to pieces, or ricotta
handful of fresh basil leaves
and or: drizzle of (home-made) pesto (if you have one at hand)
a few drizzles of olive oil to serve
pecorino sardo

start with the basic tomato sauce. heat the olive oil in a saucepan. add onion, peperoncino and garlic and sweat for a minute or two. pour in the passata and half a glass of tap water. add a pinch of sugar, season with salt and pepper. add the laurel leaf and (here comes the secret): the stems of the herbs, chopped or in whole (if you leave them in whole you will have to reduce the stems after cooking). cover with lid and cook on low to medium heat for (at least) 30 minutes (note: the long cooking time reduces the acid and is generally somehow vital for a good, fragrant taste). reduce heat and only keep it warm.

cook the strozzapreti according to directions, in well salted water (no olive oil in the water, please). drain the pasta, making sure not to shake off too much of the excess water, since that will keep the pasta humid and prevents it from sticking together. put pasta on a large plate, drizzle with olive oil and mix a few spoons full of sugo among it.

pile other ingredients on top of pasta: more sugo, mozzarella basil, pesto and carciofi, and drizzle with olive oil. serve with pecorino sardo. buona, la pasta!

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