Trees and Robots

by Jacopo Scazzosi

For the love of pasta

What follows is one of the simplest, most overlooked, most wonderful pasta recipes. It’s a summer recipe, ideal for those 4pm lunches after a day spent at the beach, and a staple of my family’s cuisine.

Ingredients

Serves two, although the quantities and process can be easily tweaked to serve many more.

Always use the best ingredients you can get. When buying at a grocery store, ingredients grown/farmed locally and to organic standards tend to be the better options. Oil, in particular, plays a critical role in this recipe. Use a good, extra-virgin, mild to medium-strength olive oil.

The recipe

Quarter the tomatoes on a chopping board. Use a high-quality wooden board. If you do not have such a board, you should re-evaluate your life priorities and immediately acquire one.

Get a bunch of fresh basil leaves. Wash the leaves, pat them dry with paper towels and remove the leaves from the stem. Tear the leaves into smaller chunks.

Put the basil and the tomatoes in a bowl, add salt, olive oil and gently mix until no salt crystals are left visible. Then, mix a little more until a gentle aroma of basil reaches your nose. Take a break. Breathe in. This is one of the little joys in life.

Prepare the water for the pasta. Use a medium-sized pot, filled with enough water to completely cover the pasta while still having plenty of room available. While you wait for the water to reach its boiling temperature, consider giving in to the natural temptation of making yourself a small frisella. 350gr of tomatoes are clearly too much for two, after all.

As the water starts boiling, add a conservative handful of salt. Wait for a minute, taste the water and adjust with a little more salt if needed. Add the pasta and let it cook to the only resonable consistency for proper pasta: al dente. Do not get distracted. Do not read emails. Do not look at your phone. This is a good time to contemplate the marvel of nature as perfectly embodied by your wooden chopping board.

I warmly suggest using a type of fresh pasta called pici, often described as fat spaghetti. Alternatively, orecchiette are an excellent option. Generally speaking, use a type of pasta whose dough is made with flour and water alone. No eggs, no additional ingredients.

Drain the pasta, saving a couple spoonfuls of water for later. Leave the pasta to cool down for a minute or two, so that it will not cook the oil on contact. After all this effort, such an outcome would be worthy of the saddest tragedy.

Pour the pasta into the bowl and stir everything together until the pasta is completely coated by a shiny layer of tomato-y deliciousness and well-mixed with the quartered tomato and basil leaves. A few splashes of cooking water will help in case of an exceedinly dry mix.

Pici coated in tomato-y deliciousness

Variations

For a more complete dish with a greater variety of textures, try adding 150gr of baby mozzarellas to the mix of basil and tomato.

Other additions to the mix include garlic, for a stronger kick, and herbs such as thyme and oregano for a more complete taste of mediterranean flavours. Make sure to remove all leftover garlic cloves before serving.