The one thing that stands out to me about Italy – when it comes to their sense of aesthetic anyway – is that more is more. They get so much pleasure from decorating something, whether it’s a grand old Basilica or a modest little country cottage, that to the rest of us it can seem somewhat overwhelming. But then you sit down to eat, and with little more than a bowl of pasta drenched in a tomato-based sauce, they manage to bring tears to your eyes… the good kind. Of all the Italian sauces, though, the Napoletana is my favourite.
TIME: 1 HOUR | SERVES: 8
30 ml olive oil
2 small brown onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 ml finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 dried bay leaf
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional, the chilli is just added for those you love a kick in their sauce, but it is not traditionally added – if added it becomes an arrabbiata sauce)
1,5 kg ripe tomatoes (see notes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
190 ml chopped fresh basil leaves
Heat the oil in a large saucepan to a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, oregano, bay leaf and chopped chilli (if you are using it) and cook for 2 minutes. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. Let the sauce simmer uncovered for 1 hour. The sauce must be thick – if not, let it cook a little further. Remember to give it a stir every now and again. Season with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaf. Add the chopped basil and cook for a few minutes while stirring.
Note: When chopping chilli, rub your hands with olive oil. The oil will have a soothing effect when you accidentally rub you eyes or touch your lips. You can scrape out the chilli seeds with the back of a teaspoon. Most of the heat is in the pips. It all depends on how hot you like your sauce. When cooking with fresh tomatoes, you can remove the skin for a smoother tomato sauce. Just make an X on the bottom of your tomatoes and throw them into a pot of boiling water for no more than a minute. Take them out with a slotted spoon, plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Peel back the skin with a knife and chop them. They are now ready for the sauce.