Since this dish is so simple, it relies on using the best tomatoes you can find, which is why we like to save it for July and August, when tomatoes are at their most flavorful. Ricotta salata is a firm, aged sheep’s milk cheese that is popular in Sicily but widely available in the United States at cheese shops, Italian markets and gourmet grocers. It’s fairly salty (salata means “salty” in Italian), so take care not to overseason your tomato sauce.
Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Salata
3 lb. (1.5 kg) plum tomatoes 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 2 garlic cloves, crushed but left whole Fine sea salt 5 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces 1 lb. (500 g) dried spaghetti 4 oz. (125 g) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
1. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place a box grater in a large bowl and carefully grate the cut side of a tomato half against the large holes of the grater. You will be left with only the tomato skin in your hand. Repeat to seed and grate the remaining tomato halves. Discard the skins.
2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and garlic until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Press the garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to release its aroma. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter.
3. Slowly pour the grated tomatoes into the pan. Be careful, because the oil will spatter. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, remove and discard the garlic, and stir in the basil.
4. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti, stir once or twice, and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain well and return to the pot. Add about three-fourths of the sauce to the pot and toss to coat the strands thoroughly. Divide among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon some of the remaining sauce on top, garnish with the cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Find more recipes like this one in our enticing collection of authentic dishes made modern, Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti.
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