Tagliatelle with a Basil Tomato Sauce topped with Buratta
This is one of the simplest classic Italian pasta dishes to make. The sauce consists of a garlic infused olive oil, mixed with a tomato base, before being seasoned with a bit of oregano and basil. The use of fresh basil is highly recommended as dried basil is unable to preserve the true flavour of a freshly picked basil leaf. Oregano however is different. Oregano being a plant that has adapted to a Mediterranean environment, is accustomed to desiccation and thus preserves it flavour well. Dried oregano may arguably be even better than fresh oregano. Besides having a longer shelf life, dried oregano has a more subtle and balanced flavour compared to the sometimes overtly pungent fresh oregano.
A good dish consists of its many components being cooked to perfection before being assembled together. In my opinion, the pasta in this dish is just as important as the sauce. I feel that tagliatelle works better with this dish as its larger surface area provides more area for the sauce to cling onto. When cooking pasta, it is important to remember to always add salt and oil to your pasta water. The salt helps season the pasta, while the oil prevents the pasta from sticking together. The duration which you cook your pasta for depends on how soft you like your pasta and the best method to use is to just periodically take some pasta out of the water and bite it to see if it has reached your desired doneness. Pasta should be cooked in a shallow pan with just enough water to cover the pasta so as not to waste energy.
Salt, when used properly, plays an important part in cooking, bringing out the flavours of the various ingredients. When used improperly however, it can ruin a dish. A skilled cook is able to use salt to layer on different tastes on each other, emphasising the uniqueness of each taste. The same goes for this dish. It is not sufficient to just add salt to the final dish. The right technique to use is to add a little salt to each component of the dish. If this is not done, the contrast in salt levels between the different components of the dish will make the dish taste unbalanced. For example, if the pasta water is not salted when cooking the tagliatelle but the sauce is perfectly seasoned, the taster of the dish will first taste the delicious sauce, but will bite into a horribly bland tagliatalle, making the sauce seem overtly salty and acidic.
Tagliatelle di basilico al pomodoro
- olive oil
- Minced Cloves of Garlic
- Tomato Sauce (Tomato Puree, Tomato Pasatta and Fresh Chopped Tomatoes)
- Dried Oregano
- Fresh Basil
- Fresh or Dried Tagliatelle
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Burrata or Mozerella Cheese
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Before mincing the garlic, remove the skins by crushing the garlic between your palm and the chopping board or alternatively using a knife to crush the garlic.
- Fry the minced garlic in olive oil until golden brown and fragrant.
- Add in a little tomato puree to the mixture and fry for a minute or two before adding the tomato pasata.
- Let it reduce for a few minutes before adding half the fresh basil and the dried oregano.
- Finally, add the freshly chopped tomatoes into the mixture, squeezing the tomatoes against the side of the pot to release its juices.
- Reduce until it coats the back of a spoon or until desired thickness before mixing with the cooked tagliatelle.
- Top the mixture with the remaining fresh basil, burrata cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Grind fresh black pepper onto the cheese before serving warm, allowing the heat from the pasta and sauce to melt the cheese naturally.
The point of frying the garlic in oil until golden brown is to caramelise the garlic while also infusing the olive oil with the taste of the garlic. It is important to first crush (bruise) the garlic before mincing it as it releases the garlic’s aromatic compounds better. You could also just use plain olive oil and season the pasta dish with garlic powder. Garlic infused olive oil can also be added to enhance the taste of garlic in the dish. Half the fresh basil is added to the dish to impart the taste of basil into the dish as a layered underlying flavour, while the remaining fresh basil is added at the end not only to make the dish visually appealing, but also to allow the fragrance of the basil to be smelt before the dish is even consumed.
Burrata cheese in this recipe can be substituted with fresh mozzarella cheese as burrata cheese in itself is a mozzarella skin stuffed with mozerella cheese mixed with cream. I personally prefer burrata cheese as it is creamier and it gives the dish a unique characteristic.
When making the tomato sauce, the various desirable traits of a good tomato sauce are sadly inversely related to each other. To achieve the thick savory and umami rich flavour of tomatoes, one needs to stew tomatoes for a long period of time. In contrast to this, the act of cooking down tomatoes removes the refreshing taste of acidity of freshly picked tomatoes. To balance this, I recommend the addition of tomato puree to the sauce, which removes the need to stew fresh tomatoes for at least an hour, before adding fresh tomatoes right at the end to give your sauce its refreshing bite.
In the end, you yourself ultimately get to decide how complicated a dish you want it to be, ranging from simply frying some garlic and adding canned tomato sauce before serving with pasta and some grated cheddar cheese, or going all out and adding a touch of basil oil at the end along with taking the effort to source burrata cheese.