Pastasciutta is a crasi of “pasta” and “asciutta” (“dry”), which is a kind of contradiction, because pastasciutta is not dry at all. Rather, it is basic pasta with tomato sauce, easy to make and the default lunch meal for millions of students and single guys around Italy.
Though being a simple recipe, Italians can fight (verbally) for hours about the right ingredients and preparation, like we do with the caffè (moka espresso) and pretty much anything culinary. That said, this is my version of pastasciutta, this is how I like it and how it should be made, period.
For four people:
- 500g pasta. All types of pasta are good, I personally prefer short pasta with tomato sauce
- half a liter (at least) of tomato passata
- half onion
- olive oil
- (optional) parmigiano cheese
You will need:
- a small pot for the sugo (possibly with a lid)
- a large pot for the pasta (possibly with a lid)
- one or two wooden spoons
- a colandaer
- (optional) a grater
Sugo is Italian for sauce, but in colloquial Italian, sugo typically refers to tomato sauce, unless different ingredients are specified. In fact, pasta al sugo is a synonym of pastasciutta.
How to make the sugo:
Pour some olive oil in the small pot, add the chopped down onion, and turn on the fire. This is called soffritto (fritto means “fried”, another crasi?). When the onions turn golden, pour the passata in the pot and stir. After a while, lower the fire and half-cover the pot, otherwise tomato sauce will go everywhere in your kitchen. Add salt and oregano, and if the level reduces too much add a little water now and then.
Fill a large pot with water, add salt, and heat to the boiling point. Covering the pot with a lid will speed up the process. When the water boils, add the pasta and stir. Keep stirring at regular intervals, otherwise the pasta will become sticky. Refer to the instructions on the package for cooking time, but be aware that every kitchen is different, so always check your pasta by taking out some and tasting its texture. Deciding when the pasta is done is a tricky business, and also a matter of personal taste. The safe choice is to take out the pasta when it’s al dente (lit. to the tooth, the phrase doesn’t make any sense), that is, not completely soft and gummy while not anymore crunchy.
Drain the pasta, add the sugo and serve. Grated parmigiano cheese goes very well on top of pastasciutta, but not everybody likes it, so bring it to the table for your guests to add it by themselves.