Easy and healthy pasta with tomato sauce – how to make a scrumptious “pasta al pomodoro”

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Pasta with tomato sauce, the most genuine Italian recipe. Nothing tastier than a simple dish of pasta with a toothsome sauce. Ready in a few minutes, it takes just the time to boil pasta. Can you make it? here, you will find out everything about pasta with tomato sauce!

Pasta is always scary! It is thought to be quite fattening ( and it is partially true), because carbs (but I should say too many carbs) contribute to overweight and diabetes. Yet, Italian people eat pasta regularly (almost 26kg each per year!)- Italian lifestyle and Mediterranean diet are not  correlated to a higher risk of cardiovascular or metabolic disorders. Why?

Pasta comes from the drying process of the wheat, which is turned into flour and then mixed with water. That’s all, no other ingredients. Non preservatives or colorants.

Yet a lot of diets and dietitians state that you have to cut out pasta or bread (for example a delicious bruschetta!) to lose weight. 

This is not true- make the right choices, reduce your serving, and eat pasta and grains correctly: cabs won’t spoil your diet, or your health. 

How much pasta can I eat?

You must weight your serving of pasta, you can’t guess, it is not good for you: if you have too little pasta, you won’t get sated; if you eat too much, you will feel full and heavy.

For women; sedentary ones from 60gr to 80gr; sporty women: about 80-100gr.

For men; sedentary ones from 80gr to 90gr; sporty men or during the growth period: about 100-120gr.

When can you pasta?

You should eat pasta for lunch, as a first or main course; then it should be combined with some proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, or ham-if your sauce already contains meat or  fish you’ll skip this, and an abundant serving of vegetables dressed with little oil, salt and vinegar or lemon according to the recipe.

You should not top pasta with any cheese (if you really can’t do without it, no more than 2 teaspoons of Parmigiano Reggiano) do not add any other seasonings.

Choose the best pasta!

Rule number one: buy only a high-quality pasta. The most famous Italian makers are Barilla (I have seen it in the US almost everywhere, but you can find it all over the world),  Rummo or Voiello. You should read the package directions and opt for an Italian product. Then, set your imagination free and choose the shape of pasta you like best as the choice is wide: macaroni, spaghetti, penne, shells, fusilli, linguine. Pasta is commonly placed in the aisle of the grains (rice, barley, for instance) in every supermarket.

Whole-grain pasta is getting more and more popular nowadays: it tastes bran, quite strong, so you have to like it. Have a try.

Buy only pasta which is composed of two ingredients: durum wheat semolina and water.

Then, look into the nutritional facts: pasta contains complex carbohydrates which are usually assimilated slowly, and simple sugars. Of course, it is not sucrose. It comes from the production of pasta itself, which breaks the molecules, and leaves some elements free. Pay attention to the fiber content: it is higher in whole-grain pasta. Fiber is not absorbed, it favors the gastrointestinal transit, and slows down the absorption of carbohydrates in the intestines. In short, it reduces the glycemic index of the meal. Pasta also contains a very low percentage of fat and salt which come from the grinding of the wheat (nothing is added).

What else? Some proteins. Yes, pasta does contain them too: the gluten-which is composed of proteins, gives the distinctive elasticity of dough of flour and water, and so it can be transformed into several shapes of pasta. Rice, for instance, does not contain gluten and it can’t be turned into a dough, unless you add other kinds of flours with gluten, nor rise to make bread, or flat bread.

Do not overcook pasta: read carefully the package directions

Rule number two: always read the package directions, and the ingredients. Be careful with the cooking time: you must not overcook it.

Bring the water to a rolling boil,  only then add coarse salt and pour pasta. 

What is pasta with tomato sauce called?

This dish (pasta and tomatoes) does not have any particular names, but you may encounter plenty of methods to make it. Actually, it is always pasta with tomatoes but the result may be wholly different all the times. Read the methods and you will understand why.

Pasta al pomodoro
Italian “pasta al pomodoro”

Can you cook pasta in tomato sauce?

No, pasta it is always cooked in boiling water, then it is drained and tossed with the sauce. Some chefs-sometimes I do it myself  (but I am not a chef, I an just a women who likes to cook), drain pasta very al dente and finish cooking it in the pan with the sauce (they add some cooking water if it gets too thick); pasta will be evenly coated and it will develop a richer flavor.

Tomato sauce or sauces with tomatoes?

In Italy, tomato sauce is different from all the other pasta seasoning  with fresh or canned tomatoes.

Tomatoes sauce is made of ripe tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, basil, (sometimes parsley) extra virgin olive oil, salt; it is used prepared at the end at summer: it is cooked for long time and sterilized in jars, then consumed all around the year.

What’s the difference between pomodoro and bolognese sauce?

Pasta with tomato sauce is made of only tomatoes and aromatic, whereas, pasta (let’s say tagliatelle, which is better) with ragù means that it is a meat sauce with tomatoes and aromatics. The former is definitely lighter than the latter, a richer main course which is usually enjoyed at the weekend to in special occasions.

How do you get rid of the unpleasant sour taste tomato sauce?

Finding a good balance between sweetness, bitterness, sourness is not always easy. Sometimes your tomato sauce taste sour, bitter, or too sweet, sometimes watery.

High quality ingredients may prevent it from getting too sour, so opt for good quality ripe and organic tomatoes. Add a little sugar (1 teaspoon every kg of ripe tomatoes) to balance the tastes. You may also neutralize the sour taste by adding the tip of a teaspoon of baking soda (that you use when you can’t digest something). In contact with the tomatoes, it will develop a foam: it is the result of the chemical reaction of the baking soda which reacts with the acid and releases anhydride. Do not exaggerate with the quantity, otherwise your sauce will get an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.

Carrots and celery have the same property, but they have to be added at the beginning of the cooking process.

Now, here is what you have to do to make a perfect dish of pasta (as you were having lunch in my house)

  1. Fill 3/4 of a large stockpot with tap water.
  2. Cover it and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.
  3. When the water boils, add some coarse salt. How much? Well, it depends on the size of the stockpot and the quantity of water. Add a medium handful, do not exaggerate, but make sure it is salty enough, otherwise pasta won’t be tasty.
  4. Weigh the portion of pasta you are allowed. In this way, you will eat the right quantity, and you won’t throw it away. Pasta must be eaten as soon as it is ready, don’t heat it up the next day.
  5. Pour pasta into a stockpot and stir it with tongs, so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. When the water returns to a boil, set the timer and cook according to the packaging directions. The thinner the pasta is, the faster it will be done.
  6. Cook pasta without cover, and stir it regularly.
  7. While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce; it will take between 7 and 15 minutes (cook it fewer minutes, if it is already made). Wash and dice some tomatoes, and sauté them in a skillet with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, little salt, chili pepper, and some leaves of basil. If you like a stronger taste sweat a clove of garlic and a small sliced onion, and them add all the ingredients.
  8. Check pasta for its doneness: cook it ‘al dente’, firm, but yet tender. If it is white inside, you should still cook it for a while. 
  9. Drain pasta and pour it into the skillet with the sauce. Don’t let it cool down. Toss well.
  10. Eat pasta hot. Enjoy every bite slowly.

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