Easy tomato pasta recipe

Nonna Lella and her fabulous pasta

Here is an easy tomato pasta recipe by Grandma Lella you may want to try for several reasons: it’s easy to prepare, it has few basic ingredients (I bet you already have them all, at least the basics, in your cupboard right now!), it’s sooo Italian!, and children love it as much as grown-ups too.

Of course, as our Food & Wine Guy Walter often tells me, we all know that Italian cuisine has just one secret: top quality ingredients. This recipe, though, will taste excellent both if you use Sicilian freshly picked tomatoes and if you use canned tomato sauce. You don’t feel like making your own béchamel sauce? No problem, you may use the one you have in your butler’s pantry.

Of course, following is the tomato and béchamel pasta according to Nonna Lella‘s recipe (I cannot mention ‘canned tomato sauce’ in her presence lest she might exclude me from her will!):

For 4 people:

  • 700 gr. of fresh tomatoes;
  • 1 carrot, 1 celery, 1 little onion;
  • Olive oil;
  • Basil;
  • 400 gr. of pasta (maccheroni, tortiglioni but also fusilli… see Walter’s post on ‘The sense of an Italian for pasta’! if you want to lose your mind on the Italian pasta variety!);
  • 500 gr home-made béchamel (50 gr of wheat flour, 50 gr. of butter; half a liter of milk);
  • Parmesan cheese

You may start with the tomato sauce:

Take the carrot, the celery and the onion and cut the vegetables into tiny little pieces (you may use the mixer or the old fashioned knife!). Then pour olive oil (extra virgin is better) into a pan, enough to cover half of the bottom. Then you pour the vegetables onto the olive oil and sauté them for about five minutes.

In a different pot you boil 700 gr of fresh tomatoes (just have them lightly cook). You make a sauce of them using the strainer and pour the sauce into the pan with sautéed vegetables. Have the tomato sauce boil for as much as you like (the more it boils the more it gets concentrated). Of course, add the salt and a little pepper (and Cayenne pepper too if you like it hot). In the end, just add 4/5 basil leaves.

In the meanwhile you can make your own béchamel sauce (or take out the canned one from your pantry!). If you want to prepare it do the following: in a small pan place 50 gr of butter with a pinch of salt. When the butter is all melted start pouring 50 gr of wheat flour little by little mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon. When the color of the mix looks light brownish (like hazelnut), start adding the milk – again little by little. And that’s it!

You cook the pasta (remember not to overcook it) in salted water. Then you pour the pasta in an baking pan. Add the tomato sauce, add the béchamel and stir. You may cover the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the baking pan into the pre-heated oven (about 180 C°) for 20 minutes, until the cheese on top gets a brownish look. Then serve the pasta, and here is the Italian touch!, on Nonna Lella‘s self hand-made table cloth 😉

We all love this recipe in the family. What about you?

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