When it comes to Italian cuisine; simple does not mean basic. Their dishes are well-known for containing a minimal amount of ingredients, yet offering a maximum amount of flavour in every bite. An example of this is basilico pasta sauce, also known as ‘pomodoro e basilico’ (tomato and basil). It is made using only olive oil, tomatoes and basil, yet has an exceptional flavour. It is a quick and light dish that doesn’t require a heavy sauce.
Among the list of famous summer Italian dishes such as zucchini alfredo, pesto pizza and tomato passata gazpacho, basilico sauce is used in many beloved Italian dishes during summer (and all year round) such asspaghetti al pomodoro con basilico.
Pasta dishes with tomato sauce (pasta al pomodoro) have become a symbol of Italian cuisine with tomatoes being one of the most used ingredients when cooking Italian dishes. However, tomatoes were first used as an ingredient in Italian cooking in the early 19th century (early 1800s). Before that, the Italians ate their pasta with cheese or ate it plain.
The Spanish conquistadores introduced the tomato to Europe after importing it from South and Central America. Mediterranean countries provided the ideal habitat for it to grow, which saw the popularity of the tomato explode as it was introduced into a variety of dishes.
Before that, however, the only tomatoes that could be found in Italy were used as ornamental plants!
The first pasta dish to include tomato
Tomato used in Italian sauces such as basilico pasta sauce may be very easy to find in stores today, but it wouldn’t be until the beginning of the 1800s when the humble tomato would make its first appearance in Italian cuisine.
In fact, it was all the way back in 1778 that ‘salsa al pomodoro’ (tomato sauce) would be first mentioned. The famous book called Cuoco Galante (The Chivalrous Cook), written by Vincenzo Corrado, first mentioned a pasta sauce made from tomato.
However, it would be Neapolitan street sellers in the early 1800s who would start serving ‘pummarola’ (the Neapolitan dialect for tomato sauce) with macaroni. Then in 1837, the dish received its official recognition and tomatoes became a staple of Italian cooking.
Simple yet delicious
Pasta dishes such as spaghetti con pomodoro e basilica (spaghetti with tomato and basil) are known for being simple, made from fresh ingredients and full of flavour. Even though it is referred to sometimes as the ‘poor Italian’s dish’, it is extremely popular throughout the country, with celebrities such as luxury handbag designer Silvia Fendiclaiming it as one of her favourite pasta dishes.
The signature trademark of traditional basilico sauce is that the integrity of the tomatoes is kept intact. Before being added to the pasta, the tomatoes are chopped up and cooked with a small amount of olive oil, rather than being combined into the sauce.
But why go through all that when you can just buy a jar of delicious organic basilico pasta sauce? Search for one in your local supermarket or online and treat the family to a delicious dinner this week!