Scallops start arriving fresh in the autumn and are so delicious in combination with olive oil, garlic and parsley that our book has a variation on the same theme that can be eaten just with bread.
The present dish comes from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Italian Cooking. However, we’ve found that a splash of rosé or white wine improves the original. Although scallops that are shelled when you buy them are the nicest, they can equally be bought pre-shelled or frozen.
Don’t worry if the scallops are ready before the pasta: they can wait a few minutes.
The following quantities are enough for four people.
- 450–500 g spaghetti
- 2–4 scallops per person
- 1 lge clove of garlic
- a handful of parsley
- 1 fresh chilli, red or green, or 2–3 dried red chillis
- olive oil
- 50–75 ml rosé or dry white wine
- 1–2 tbsp breadcrumbs
Put a generous pan of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.
Meanwhile, rinse the scallops thoroughly, separating the coral (the orange part) from the white part, to remove grit. Pat as dry as possible with a cloth or kitchen roll and cut the white parts into quarters and the corals in half, discarding any black bits.
Chop the garlic, parsley, and chilli very finely; the latter two can be done together.
Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water when you are ready to cook the garlic. (If the pasta is ready before the sauce, keep it warm having mixed in a trickle of olive oil.)
During the time the spaghetti is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and the garlic together gently in a frying or sauté pan until the garlic begins to take colour, then stir in the parsley and chilli. Add the scallops and a pinch of salt and cook for 3–4 min, stirring almost constantly. The scallops are done when they begin to look white rather than translucent.
If the scallops have released too much liquid, reduce it by turning up the heat briefly, having removed the scallops with a slotted spoon; then return these to the pan, pour in the wine and toss them in it until the wine bubbles.
Turn the scallops and the sauce into the pasta.
Finally, stir in the breadcrumbs and serve.
It’s a common misconception that a good tomato sauce requires a multitude of ingredients, and I often hear people talk about a “secret ingredient” that will magically turn a bland and watery concoction into tomato-ey perfection – ketchup, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, even Marmite (!) – and I’m rarely, if ever, convinced.
There is a secret to great tomato sauce, and it follows the “less is more” principle which applies to some of the best recipes I know – Italian in particular. Forget the dried herbs. Forget the condiments. And, for the love of god, forget the Marmite. This recipe consists of only a handful of ingredients, and we have the brilliant Marcella Hazan to thank for it.
It’s a simple dish, so attention to detail makes all the difference: you should use good quality extra-virgin olive oil (and lots of it), the garlic needs to be as thinly sliced as you can manage and should not burn in the oil, and the dish must cook until the olive oil separates from the tomato.
Simple tomato pasta is now a dish I look forward both to cooking and to eating – and I hope you will too.
Marcella’s perfect tomato sauce
Serves three to four people.
- 2 tins of whole plum tomatoes (400g each)
- 2-4 cloves of garlic
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- fresh basil
- salt and black pepper
Cut the garlic into wafer thin slices (see photo), and place in a heavy bottomed pan with the olive oil. Place on a moderate flame on the hob, and fry the garlic until it starts to turn a nutty brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn, as this will give the whole dish the slightly bitter flavour of burnt garlic. (This method of heating ingredients in olive oil from cold is known as a crudo in Italian cooking.)
While the garlic is frying, drain the excess juice off the tomatoes in a colander. As soon as the garlic is done, add the tomatoes and break them down. Leave to cook on a moderate heat for half an hour to forty minutes, stirring from time to time to break the tomatoes down further. Gradually, you should start to see the olive oil separating from the tomatoes, and the sauce will be ready when the two are quite separate. The olive oil will take on the colour and flavour of the tomatoes and garlic, and the tomatoes will become smooth, rich and sweet.
A couple of minutes before turning off the heat, add generous pinches of salt and pepper, and stir. Taste the sauce now – as with all pasta sauces, on its own it should be a little over-salty (though not inedible!) to compensate for the relative blandness of the pasta.
Immediately before serving add the fresh basil leaves, carefully torn so as not to bruise them. Serve with spaghetti (though farfalle and penne also work well) and a fresh green salad on the side.
Once you’ve got the hang of this dish, you can experiment with variations such as the addition of olives, capers, anchovies, etc. Avoid adding fresh vegetables or mushrooms, as the additional water content will upset the chemistry of the sauce.