The ‘Benchmark’: Spaghetti Pomodoro

October 19, 2017

Morsels from the kitchen of our Capo, Paola Toppi…

I had a regular in the other night who confided that every time he goes to a new restaurant he tests whether the chef can cook or not by asking for a plate of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. I laughed because my husband does the exact same: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is what he calls a ‘benchmark’ dish. It’s such a basic and simple recipe – pasta, garlic and oil – but it’s impossible to get right if you don’t master the subtle flavour combinations.

It’s funny how the most humble dishes are always the hardest to make perfectly. The same can be said of Spaghetti Pomodoro. This is one of our simplest dishes on the menu, but it’s a must-have. It’s not too delicate, but not too heavy, either, and I always find that once a customer tries it they have to have it again and again and again!

We make our Spaghetti Pomodoro with good olive oil, cloves of garlic and tomatoes cooked very quickly. If you overcook this it splits and isn’t nice at all. Every chef has their own interpretation of the Neapolitana sauce that is essential to Spaghetti Pomodoro. Some add chilli, another olives, another capers. The basic Neapolitana sauce is tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, and what tomatoes you use is up to you. I use a combination of tinned San Marzano and some of the sweet delight cherry tomatoes.

Key for me with this dish is the fresh pasta we make on site here every day. Fresh house made pasta absorbs the sauce in a delicious way that dry (store bought) pasta can’t. It’s like the noodles you get on the streets of Hong Kong: they taste great and everyone loves eating them, even without anything on them.

Oh, and my version of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? It’s on the new spring menu. My husband seems to like it, but I’d love you to come down to Bar M and try it for yourself.