This is as far as I am concerned the dish I would have on a desert island. I make sure I have the ingredients for this in my house at all times; it means I can have a decent meal at any time. The dish is made with the most simple tomato sauce, and once you can handle this the variations are many: Adding a couple of chili peppers and parsley instead of basil or a dollop of creamy ricotta to finish the sauce are just two ideas.
Even though I always use canned Italian tomatoes, the acidity varies a lot. If they taste too acid I add a teaspoon of sugar to round out the flavor. "Secrets of the mother," said the first Italian chef who taught me that with a wink. But taste first, since you don't always need it. I like a small amount of butter at the end for the same reason: It smoothes out the flavor, but there are many who frown on the addition of butter. Make up your own mind!
Serves 4 to 6
• 500 grams dried pasta, any long or short shape, preferably artisanal, such as Rustichella d'Abruzzo
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1.5 cups canned San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
• 1 teaspoon plain sugar (optional)
• 5 to 6 fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
• 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
• ¼ cup grated Grana Padano cheese