Bucatini all’amatriciana with tomato leaves
Thanks to some local friends whose garden was starting to look a little overgrown, I managed to lay my hands on some tomato leaves to cook with. I figured the best way to experiment with them was in a dish that already included tomatoes. My favourite go-to pasta sauce is amatriciana, which uses bacon and tomatoes, so it seemed like a good candidate. Amatriciana is traditionally served with bucatini, a type of pasta that’s like very thick, hollow spaghetti.
For me the key to a good amatriciana sauce is the relatively long cooking over high heat; the sugar in the tomatoes should caramelize thoroughly. To incorporate the tomato leaves, I added them pretty early in the process, along with the tomatoes themselves, with the intention of removing them before serving. It turns out this may have been a mistake: afterward, I referred back to Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for pizza sauce in In Search of Perfection, and he calls for a tomato vine to be added to the cooled sauce, observing that heat may destroy the aromatic qualities of the vine.
So did the tomato leaves punch up the tomato flavour in the dish? It’s hard to say. It certainly tasted very tomato-y. But clearly more experimentation is in order.
Recipe for bucatini all’amatriciana
Half a small onion, diced
125 g. unsmoked bacon or pancetta, diced
28 oz. tin of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
Salt, pepper and pecorino cheese to taste
Heat a good pour of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the diced onion and bacon, and sauté until the bacon starts to crisp. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until they take on a tomato paste-like appearance, about 15 minutes. In the meantime, cook a pound of bucatini. When the pasta and sauce are done, add the bucatini to the skillet and toss to combine. (The noodles will be only lightly dressed.) Grind some black pepper and grate some pecorino cheese over top. Serves 3-4.