tomatoes risotto

Italian Grandmothers everywhere are shaking their heads…

Every once in a while I see a recipe that looks like it is either intentionally booby-trapped, or is just plain wrong. When I finally looked at my August newsletter from Bonnie Stern (author of several go-to cookbooks in my arsenal) there was one freaky recipe that caught my attention. Not only do I not believe in re-inventing a perfectly good wheel, I think there are a few things you don’t mess with, like cooking pasta properly, and making risotto. So OF COURSE I had to try….


This recipe is from Judy Witts Francini, a friend and colleague of Bonnie’s who leads tours, writes guidebooks and has a helpful website for anyone travelling to Italy  Don’t worry that it is against every rule of cooking pasta – it is amazing.

  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp hot red chile flakes
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 cups boiling water

for finishing:  3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large 12″ deep skillet. Add tomatoes, cut side down. Add about 1/2 cup boiling water and cook about 10 to 15 minutes until tomatoes have softened. Add garlic and hot chile flakes. Turn tomatoes over, cook another 5 minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary to prevent sticking. Now break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon and cook, until sauce-like and juicy.

2. Add dry spaghetti and stir a little until it softens and you can stir everything together. Adding water about 1/2 cup at a time, as the spaghetti absorbs the liquid, stir and cook until the spaghetti is al dente – about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, oil or butter and basil. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano if you like.

makes 6 servings

Folks, the texture is incredible and the lack of boiled-in-water-sog is amazing. Revolutionary even, perhaps. The sauce becomes creamy from the starch released from the pasta (which is why you really have to keep stirring as it cooks.).  I did skin the tomatoes to spare everyone the skin-in-the-teeth smile. The only slightly odd part of this adventure is the colour. If I were to name a new Crayola colour for the finished sauce, it would be “Chef Boyardee”