Create pasta perfection

Together with fresh ingredients, a truly fine pack of your favourite pasta, and maybe some pesto, and you�ve got the beginning of an Italian meal that only needs a little bit of planning and timing to get it absolutely right. While some folks abhor the very concept of fast food, with its emphasis on elderly grease and artery-choking cholesterol, making food fast is quite another thing altogether. What you are going to make with this recipe not only tastes good and looks good, but the gentle balance of tastes and colours is healthy, too. And for a beginner cook, like yourself, this one will do great things for your culinary confidence �
Issue date 18 May 2007

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To make this astounding pasta dish for four diners you will need:


• 500g spaghetti or linguine

• 250g small rosa tomatoes
• extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 1 onion
• 1 or 2 chillies
• 10 anchovies
• 2 tablespoons of capers
• 1 cup of fresh basil leaves
• 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
• salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, make a quick pesto by ­combining the basil leaves, pine nuts and a little extra-virgin olive oil in a food processor. Blend until they are reduced to a coarse paste, and add a little salt and pepper. Next, attack the anchovies. Ideally, buy these in a bottle rather than a can, as the unused remainder can then be ­easily resealed for later use. Chop 10 of the anchovy fillets as finely as possible. The preparation of the chilli is a moment for thought. Consider your guests and their capacities to handle chilli. While this old hack, with his asbestos-lined mouth, can literally eat them off the vine, most normal humans have a lower capacity when it comes to the burn of a wild chilli. Removing the pips massively reduces the heat. Chop the chillies finely. Crush, peel and finely chop the ­garlic and slice the peeled onion thinly. Okay, we’ve got everything in place. Now’s the moment to plan the two cooking ­processes – one for the sauce, the other for the pasta – so that they are ready ­simultaneously. The benefit is a ­balanced set of temperatures, tastes and textures all for the pleasure of your guests. Get a two-litre saucepan of water up to a rolling boil. Alternatively, if pasta is likely to become a regular family meal, consider buying a dedicated pasta pot. This is a narrow, cylindrical pot with a fitted inner sieve. Lightly salt the boiling water and let the pasta cook for the time suggested on the packing – usually nine minutes – or until it is done to your liking. This, your liking, can take one of two forms: urbane, sophisticated pasta-eaters like it al dente, which means a bit of texture and resistance when bitten. Others, wild men and women who drink beer instead of red wine with pasta, like it cooked a little longer so that it mixes better with the sauce. While this is going on, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the anchovies, chillies, garlic and onion until the onion is soft and transparent. Then add the whole rosa tomatoes and the capers, and let them all cook together for a minute. Drain the pasta, mix with the sauce and serve with additional fresh rosa tomatoes as a ­garnish, plus a spoon or two of basil pasta and a few whole pine nuts. What a blast, and don’t forget the beer. – David Basckin |fw