If there’s one dish – just one dish – that represents Italy, it’s lo spaghetto al pomodoro. With five simple ingredients, this classic is a time-honoured tradition renowned throughout the entire peninsula and beyond. In fact, it’s so well respected that many Italians believe that if a restaurant can’t make a good spaghetto al pomodoro, they probably don’t deserve to be in business.
At Eataly, our chefs are always on the hunt for new dishes to incorporate into our restaurant menus. After all, with 20 regions of Italy each boasting their own version of Italian food, there are plenty to choose from! One of the dishes that our chefs are taking a very very close look at is lo spaghetto al pomodoro. After all, who are we if we can’t make a good one?
So what’s the Eataly secret and how did we come up with a recipe that’s good enough to put on our most popular restaurant’s menu?
As most good things do, it all started in Italy. In 2017, the Corporate Executive Chef of Eataly Italia, Enrico Panero, and his team wanted to develop the perfect dish to represent Eataly to celebrate our 10th global anniversary. Of course, they chose lo spaghetto al pomodoro.
“On the occasion of the tenth year of Eataly we wanted to give you and us a gift,” recounts Enrico, “a new recipe for one of the dishes that has always represented us: spaghetti with tomato sauce. We wanted to look to the future, with a preparation that simplifies the traditional recipe to the maximum, to make it lighter and healthier, but without losing taste. A dish to be replicated at home, with simple ingredients to keep in the pantry: all you need is found in our market. ”
The recipe was good. So good, in fact, that our chefs decided to add it to the menu at Eataly’s La Pizza & La Pasta restaurant. Eataly’s editorial team sat down our chefs to get the inside scoop behind what makes Eataly’s recipe the perfect spaghetto al pomodoro.
So tell us a little bit about what makes lo spaghetto al pomodoro di Eataly so special?
The dish is really simple, and yet every ingredient has been carefully thought out in terms of how it will impact the final result. For example, Eataly carries more than 40 different preserved tomato varieties. Some are more acidic, while others are sweeter. And then you have the difference between unpeeled and peeled or whole versus crushed. When you apply those variations to each of the five ingredients, as well as the technique, you can come up with so many versions of the same dish. This is why this specific spaghetto is so revolutionary. Every single detail has been thoroughly tested and tried for the best result.
What are the ingredients and why did we choose them?
It’s funny because the ingredients come from different regions throughout Italy. We didn’t do that intentionally, it’s just the way it worked out. The olive oil is from Liguria, the salt is from Sicily, and the tomatoes and pasta are from Campania.
ROI Monocultivar Taggiasca Extra Virgin Olive Oil
We chose this olive oil for two reasons: it’s there but not there. Do you know what I mean? You taste it but it’s not overwhelming. It’s subtle. It still gives you that olive flavour but without that bite that can overwhelm the palate like a Sicilian or Tuscan olive oil. It’s really good with basil, too.
Hand-Harvested Sicilian Sea Salt “Sale Integrale” by Il Mercante di Spezie
We tasted every salt we carry. We chose this one because it has more of an earthy tone to it. Unlike Maldon salt, it’s not as salty. It has an earthy flavour with more complexity. I like to think of it as having a “laid-back” flavour – just the way Italians are laid back! I like to call it “dirt salt” because it’s harvested from the bottom of salt pans, while other varieties like Maldon are taken from the top.
Così Com’è Whole Red Unpeeled Datterino Tomatoes
We tasted 40 different tomato products, including fresh tomatoes, tomato puree, whole canned tomatoes, cut canned tomatoes, peeled, and unpeeled. It was tedious and long, but you really start to taste the subtle differences. There were 20 people with different things to say about each tomato. It was a lot of work!
Choosing the unpeeled was actually a funny thing. Even though they are less sweet and more bitter with the skins on, they help create chunks and texture in the dish because they don’t break down into a pulp. Still, this variety by Così Com’è is a sweeter tomato. If you haven’t had them these are the sweetest! I have a can at my house all the time. You don’t need to cook them – they’re so fresh tasting. In fact, we don’t even cook them at all. Traditionally, spaghetto al pomodoro is made with fresh tomatoes, so we wanted to recreate that fresh taste and with these tomatoes, we get to do that, even in the winter.
Artisanal Spaghetti di Gragnano IGP by Afeltra
We tested out three different thicknesses: spaghettini (thin), spaghetti (medium), and spaghettoni (extra thick). We tasted them to find the right chew we wanted with the pasta. In the end, we chose the classic spaghetto because not everyone knows what the other varieties are and it’s the most traditional. The pasta is made in Gragnano (the birthplace of dry pasta) by Afeltra and it’s bronze-extruded – it’s one my favourites! The chew is better, too because it has a blend of gluten structures thanks to the mixed grain of the durum wheat semolina.
Right now we’re just using standard fresh basil. As other varieties become available, we’ll probably use a special DOP variety from a local farm.
Wait – so there’s no garlic?
The focus is the pomodoro. We didn’t want to mess that up. When you add garlic, it dominates the palate. We wanted the tomato to be the main highlight. After all, it’s called spaghetto al pomodoro.
And no cheese? Not even a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP?
You don’t need it. It’s a fresh dish. You put cheese on it and it makes it heavy. People will always want to put cheese on it, and that’s fine, but I prefer it like this and I want people to taste it like this first.
Alright. So what about the cooking process? How’s it made?
It’s a really simple recipe. Most of the process is really put into the ingredients. We talked about cooking the sauce, then holding it, cooking it on the pick up a bit more. We ended up not cooking the sauce at all. The only time it’s warmed up is when the pasta is added at the end.
The tomatoes are crushed by hand and added to a cool pan with olive oil and salt. We cook the pasta for 11 minutes in salted water, then add it directly to the pan with the tomatoes along with a little bit of pasta water. Only once the pasta goes in, do we turn the pan on low heat. We mix it together (in Italian, this process is called mantecato) for one more minute then serve it with fresh basil on top. It’s super fresh.
So are you excited about the launch of this spaghetto al pomodoro?
I could eat this dish every single day. Alex Saper (Eataly USA Partner) literally came in every day to ask for it before we even had it on the menu. It’s light but satisfying. It’s not like other pasta dishes in Italian restaurants throughout New York where you get a massive portion and feel stuffed. We serve just the right amount and we really focus on quality. You can eat it and feel satisfied, without feeling too full.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about this dish?
It’s simplicity at it’s best. I hope that people learn how special this dish is and understand the ingredients and the thought that went behind it. Oh and also – don’t put cheese on it.
Want to taste Lo Spaghetto al Pomodoro di Eataly? Get the full recipe here, or try it at Eataly Toronto – visit La Pizza & La Pasta to get a taste!