I’m loving my extended visit to the woods of the American heartland (with frequent day trips to New York City!). While here writing a book I think about my permanent home in Ischia, an exceedingly beautiful island in the bay of Naples.
Now it’s easy to enhance these memories by the simple act of making spaghetti. Al dente, of course. Its sauce has to be made only of canned Neapolitan tomatoes, which New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne once said are superior even to freshly grown ones here. He’s absolutely right. Their taste is subtle and unique, the result of being grown in the rich volcanic soil surrounding Vesuvius. Another unique flavor is that of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. (Look for the imprint of Reggiano stenciled on the rind. If it’s not there, forget it!)
The essence of Italian cooking is twofold: freshness of ingredients, and simplicity. So dump the 28 oz. can into a heavy saucepan. Add four or five tablespoons of either extra virgin olive oil, or butter. Also a medium cooking onion, peeled and halved.
Cook uncovered at a low simmer—NOT boiling—for about an hour. Discard the onion. Pour over a heap of steaming spaghetti. Liberally grate the parmigiano. Serve with a thick slice of fresh bread toasted with garlic and butter.