I know you might do a double take at the name of this recipe. But I assure you it is a simple, delightful rendition of spaghetti in quickly cooked tomato sauce. The unique touch comes from shreds of fresh apple, which lend the sauce a lovely aroma and flavor and feel good in the mouth. When I tasted this for the first time in the Val di Non of Trentino, I wondered, Why didn’t I think of this long ago? Spaghetti is my choice of pasta here, but linguine, ziti, or rigatoni would be just as good.
- 3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large stalks celery, cut in ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound tart, firm apples, such as Granny Smith
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano, plus more for passing
You will need a food processor or blender; a heavy bottomed skillet or sauté pan,12-inch diameter; a large pot, 8-quart capacity for cooking the pasta.
Pour the canned tomatoes into the food processor or blender, and purée until smooth.
Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into the skillet, set it over medium heat, and strew the chopped celery and onion in the pan. Cook and stir the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they wilt and start to caramelize.
Stir in the puréed tomatoes, season with the salt, and heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so. As the tomatoes perk, peel and core the apples, and remove the seeds. Shred them, using the coarse holes of the shredder or grater.
When the tomatoes have cooked about 5 minutes, stir the apples into the sauce. Heat again to a simmer, and cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until it has reduced and thickened and the apple shreds are cooked and tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, drop in the spaghetti, and cook it until barely al dente. Lift the spaghetti from the water, let drain for a moment, and drop it into the warm sauce. (Reheat, if necessary.)
Toss pasta with sauce for a minute or two, until all the strands are coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta, and toss well. Drizzle over it the remaining olive oil, toss once again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.