My boyfriend at the time suggested that we all visit the island of Elba. It was a long hot drive, and it involved an uncomfortable night in a small Ford Fiesta, since there was a ferry strike, but we saw the leaning tower of Pisa on the way and we were in Italy, yeah!
We camped out and spent our days sunbathing, swimming, drinking cappuccino and eating lots of pasta. We explored the charming island towns with sexy sounding names like Portoferraio, Capoliveri and Porto Azzuro and listened to Italian pop songs on the car radio singing along exuberantly. (I am not sure why Napoleon wanted to get away from here, we were perfectly happy!) In the evenings we drank plenty of Chianti, and while I stayed back with my rather boring boyfriend, Sophie rode off into the sunset with the waiter on his unmistakably-sounding Vespa.
Even the most basic pasta was exquisite. At lunch time at a tiny place right on the beach, we ordered the same thing every day: Spaghetti Napoli. It came to the table steaming hot, brightly colored and smelling heavenly aromatic. It was always served with a healthy pat of sweet vanilla-colored butter. Melted right into the simple tomato sauce, the butter made it rich, creamy and satisfying. Each time, the spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente. We showered it with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and twirled up the long strands with the help of a big spoon, grinning at each other across the table with crimson stained lips.
Napoli Pasta Sauce
inspired by Renée
2 - 3 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 large fresh basil leaves
Salt to taste
Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Drop in one tomato at a time, bubble for a minute and scoop out with a slotted spoon. Peel all the tomatoes, remove the core and chop into bite-size pieces. Gently heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Sauté for 10 minutes until translucent and soft, stir once in a while. Throw in the garlic for the last half minute until the mixture smells sweet and aromatic.
Add the chopped tomatoes with all the juices, season with salt and then add the whole basil leaves. Simmer for an hour or until the sauce is concentrated and fragrant. Adjust taste and blend, leaving it still a little chunky.
Serve over spaghetti with a knob of butter and plenty of parmesan cheese on the side.