Summer Spaghetti alla Carla with Carla Capalbo
This is Carla's version of pasta alla Checca, a popular southern Italian summer dish made throughout Italy that originated in Rome. Make it in summer when tomatoes are plentiful, inexpensive and really ripe, and when you can take advantage of the many colourful varieties that are now being grown. You can adapt the sauce to your taste, adding more or less garlic, chilli, herbs and capers. Aim to cut the tomatoes into the bowl about an hour before you are going to cook the pasta to give the sauce time to absorb all the flavourings and to allow the tomatoes to release their juices. If you want to eat it cold as a salad, use short pasta.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
1kg assorted ripe, flavourful tomatoes, washed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
a handful of mixed fresh herbs: basil, parsley and chives
fresh or dried chilli, optional
6 Tb extra virgin olive oil
3Tb salted capers
500g spaghetti or other durum wheat pasta
Parmesan, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. An hour before the meal, chop the tomatoes into small pieces and put them into a large bowl. Add the garlic, herbs and optional chilli. Stir in a teaspoon of salt, some ground black pepper and the olive oil. Set aside at room temperature.
2. Put the capers into a small bowl of warm water, stir and leave for 10 minutes. Remove the capers from the water, leaving the salt crystals behind. Add the capers to the tomato mixture.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the pasta. Add the spahetti when the water is boiling rapidly, and stir it in to make sure it does not stick in clumps. Stir occasionally, and start doing a taste test for doneness a few minutes before the official time has elapsed. You don't want to overcook your pasta.
4. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove a cupful of the hot pasta water and set the cup aside in case you need to add any of it to the pasta if it's too dry. Drain the pasta quickly and turn it immediately into the bowl with the tomato mixture. Stir well. Add the grated cheese and serve as soon as possible to keep the pasta hot. If it seems dry, adds a bit of the reserved cooking water. Serve with another drizzle of olive oil on each individual dish if you wish.