The Two-Hour Tomato Sauce That Is Worth The Wait
Photograph by Mr Steven Joyce
Padella, which opened earlier this month on the edge of south London’s Borough market, has been 10 years in the making, according to its head chef and owner, Mr Tim Siadatan. The idea predates the opening of his and business partner Mr Jordan Frieda’s Trullo – the well-loved Italian neighbourhood restaurant in Highbury, north London. Mr Siadatan is one of Mr Jamie Oliver’s original “Fifteen”, while Mr Frieda cut his teeth front of house at The River Café.
Fresh pasta at its best is oddly scarce in the city. “Before Trullo, we could only ever go to The River Café, but we couldn’t afford it; it was only for treats,” Mr Siadatan says. Padella – wherein “literally miles” of fresh pasta is rolled 16 hours a day – is the product of “trips to Venice, Tuscany, little trattorias, testing at Trullo, the idea of fast cicchetti [Venetian snacks] and observing the success of counter dining in London at the likes of Barrafina and Spuntino.” Also, the popularity of single-concept restaurants – pizzas, burgers, hot dogs – reassured them that the city is receptive to mono-gastronomy.
Watching the chefs at Padella is part of the theatre – and it’s fun to listen to their abbreviated code for each of the eight daily pasta dishes, “tag-this, pap-that”, and to appreciate first-hand the pace of the operation. Lunch can be lightning quick, which is deliberate, given Padella’s proximity to the City: you can be in and out in 20 minutes for under £15. Emphasis is placed on efficiency, but not at the expense of quality: like the pasta itself, slow-cooked ragùs, sauces and ravioli are made ahead of service and assembled to order. Critically, Mr Siadatan and his chefs trust in their ingredients and exercise the art of simplicity – most notable in the pici cacio e pepe – bread flour noodles in a rich, cheese sauce with black pepper, brightened by lemon zest – or the simplest of all, tagliarini in tomato sauce.
Photograph by Ms Elena Heatherwick
- 200ml olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped
- 500g tinned whole plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp cabernet sauvignon vinegar
- 500g tagliarini or spaghetti
- Salt and pepper
- Grated parmesan to serve
Strain the tinned tomatoes through a colander.
Heat a glug of olive oil on a low-to-medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic and chilli and fry until they start to change colour, then add the strained tomatoes and stir. After five minutes, turn the heat down to low, add 190ml of olive oil and vinegar and simmer for two hours. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick. Taste and check if it requires seasoning. If it’s still a bit acidic or bitter, add a pinch of caster sugar.
Bring water to the boil in a large pot and season generously with salt; add pasta and follow the instructions.
Add a splash of pasta cooking water to the pan of tomato sauce and put on a low heat. When the pasta is cooked, remove from the water and add to the tomato sauce pan. Keep the pasta cooking water. Vigorously toss the pasta in the pan for at least 30 seconds to work the gluten, adding a splash more starchy cooking water if it starts to dry up. Continue tossing the pasta until the sauce emulsifies. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.