My husband works in Berlin a lot. There are many disadvantages being that he works so far away, but also some advantages (hopefully he's not reading this). Every two months I join him for a weekend of shopping, restaurants and culture, and then come back to my kids on Sunday. Besides the many shoes and clothes I come back with, and the trinkets that he sometimes brings me, I have come to know one of the most amazing cities, which happens to be also a culinary capital that could give a fight to Paris and NYC. This recipe happens to be from the popular restaurant chain "Vapiano", an Italian, serve yourself restaurant with an unpretentious menu consisting of salads, pizzas and pastas only. In the entrance to the restaurant you are handed an electronic card which you bring with you to the food stands. Each dish has a separate stand, so that if you are craving salad and pasta, you have to stand in both lines. The electronic card is charged at the food stands and you pay when you finish according the amount on the card (not sure this would work in Israel). The food is made a la minute from the freshest, most simple, high quality ingredients. In short, Vapiano is not posh, but really tasty, fresh and cheap.
This pasta has a tomato and spinach sauce. I love the use of two kinds of tomatoes (roma and cherry) and the addition of tomato paste. The Italians use tomato paste with no reservations in their pastas. Make sure that the tomato paste you are using is made from 100% tomatoes with no additional additives or food coloring.
Two more important things for this recipe:
You must generously salt the cooking water of the pasta. Pasta that is cooked in water with no salt with always comes out a bit tasteless, even if it is sauced properly.
While cooking the pasta, the water will become starchy from the pasta. Once the pasta is ready, save some of its cooking water to add to the pasta sauce to thicken it. It's best to start making the sauce when the pasta is just about finished cooking, and then just "steal" some of the water and place it directly into the sauce. Enjoy!
Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
1 package (17 oz./ 500 grams) pasta
For the sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
6 roma tomatoes (or 4 regular tomatoes), cut into ¾-inch cubes
30 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup salted pasta cooking water
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parmesan cheese
1. Heat a large skilled on medium heat. Add the olive oil and roma tomatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, while occasionally stirring, until softened.
2. In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
3. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes until softened. Add the tomato paste and pasta cooking water and stir. Bring to a boil and cook for another 1-3 minutes, until thickened.
4. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and stir. Taste and season accordingly.
5. Drain the pasta when it has reached al-dente. Transfer pasta directly to sauce. Stir so that pasta is covered in sauce and cook for another minute, so that all the tastes combine. Taste and season accordingly.
6. Serve immediately with fresh parmesan.