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Speedy, simple tomato-basil pasta
July 07, 2008
Want to cook Italian food but terrified by the complicated recipes? Exasperated because you can't find the right ingredients? Wish you could eat chilly with your pasta?

In our continuing series of recipes taken from Italian Khana, an Italian cookbook for the Indian kitchen, Ritu Dalmia, celebrated chef and owner of Diva, one of Delhi's finest Italian restaurants, reveals her best tips and shows you how to cook an authentic Italian dish for dinner tonight in 30 minutes or less.

Ritu will also answer reader queries, so scroll down to the bottom of the page to address your questions to her.

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Today's Recipe: Pasta with Tomato and Basil Sauce

The most basic of cooked sauces and the simplest, tomato and basil sauce is the benchmark of a good Italian home cook. It should be cooked fast and hot for the tomatoes to retain their summer sweetness, yet long enough to lose the watery quality that signals a bad sauce.


  • 1 kg large red ripe tomatoes
  • 40 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pods garlic, peeled and minced
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Pinch red chilly pepper flakes
  • 1 packet penne (you could use any pasta here, long, thin, short, tube: this is one sauce which works well with all the pastas)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste


  • Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, remove most of the seeds, using your fingers.
  • Cut the tomatoes in quarters.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet, add garlic and chilly flakes.
  • As soon as the garlic gives off its aroma and becomes opaque, add the tomatoes.
  • Cook over high heat until the tomato thickens. Use a wooden spoon to stir and help break up the tomato pulp.
  • Add the basil, either whole or roughly chopped, and salt.
  • When the sauce is cooked, remove it from heat, and put it through the food processor for a minute.
  • Cook the pasta, in abundant boiling water.
  • Drain once the pasta is al dente, and place in a serving bowl with the sauce and a spoonful of pasta water.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta and mix well with sauce.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan.
  • After you have a basic tomato sauce in hand you could do zillions of variations; add grilled veggies, or slivers of ham, or even some fish or prawns. Just do me a favour please and DO NOT add chicken!

Previous recipe: Spaghetti aglio Olio e Peperoncino

Excerpted from Italian Khana, India's first Italian cookbook for the Indian kitchen, with permission from the publishers, Random House India. Ritu will also answer reader queries, so please address your questions to her in the QnA box below.

Photograph: Sephi Bergerson

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