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Thin Spaghetti with Fresh Basil and Tomato Sauce

Spaghettini alla carettiera From Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook Carretti were hand-or mule-driven carts in which wine and produce were brought into Rome from the surrounding hills. The carettieri, the cart drivers, were notoriously underpaid and had to improvise inexpensive but satisfying meals that could be quickly prepared in the intervals between treks to and from the city. There are many versions of spaghettinini alla carrettiera. This is evidently a spring and summer version, because it calls for a large quantity of fresh basil. It has a very fresh, unlabored taste. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic required. It simmers in the sauce without browning so that its flavor comes through very gently. In Rome, one would use very ripe, small tomatoes called casalini, which thicken quickly in cooking. For our purposes, a good-quality canned Italian plum tomato is best. For 4 persons 1 large bunch fresh basil 2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped 5 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine 1/3 cup olive oil, more if desired Salt Freshly ground pepper, about 6 twists of the mill 1 pound Spaghettini 1. Pull off all the basil leaves from the stalks, rinse them briefly in cold water, and roughly chop them. The yield should be about 1 ½ to 2 cups. 2. Put the chopped basil, tomatoes, garlic, the 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in an uncovered saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Taste and corrrect for salt. 3. Put the spaghettini in 4 quarts of boiling salted water. Since thin spaghetti cook very rapidly, begin testing them early for doneness. They should be truly al dente, very firm to the bite. 4. Drain the spaghettini in a large collander, giving the colander two or three vigorous upward jerks to make all the water run off, and transfer quickly to a hot bowl. Add the sauce, mixing it thoroughly with the spaghettini. You may, if you wish, add a few drops of raw olive oil. Serve immediately.

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