Cooking Italy: Spaghetti in Tomato-Apple Sauce

I decided to start cooking my way through Trentino Alto Adige with the most simple recipe I could find in the chapter because I hadn’t stocked up at the grocery store in over a week. Lucky for me, Lidia included a recipe for spaghetti in a tomato-apple sauce (wow, I actually had everything I needed on hand!) that would be done in under 30 minutes.

Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce

I’ve never heard of including apple in a pasta sauce and it has certainly never occurred to me (in other savory fruit news, a friend recently suggested I try a banana curry).  However, the shredded apple, along with diced onion and celery really did lend a nice texture to the sauce that elevated it above a simple tomato sauce.

I didn’t make any changes to the ingredients required by this recipe, but it’s worth pointing out that 1 lb. of apples is probably two average size Golden Delicious apples. I used three because I had no idea how many apples were in a pound and didn’t have a scale handy (although I think all this cooking might require I purchase one). It seemed like too much once I mixed it in and tasted a bit too much once the recipe was done. So, I checked next time I was at the grocery store…2 apples = just under 1 pound.

The only other changes I made from Lidia’s original recipe was to not puree the canned whole tomatoes and not peel the apples. These weren’t decisions I came to on my own, but rather Lidia’s own suggestion in a video on her website. I guess she changed her mind after she wrote the book. Instead, I crushed the tomatoes with my hand when I added them to the pan and it worked fine.  I would however recommend you peel your apples. There were a few bites where the peel was distracting

Overall, I found this recipe to be a success.  I plan to make it again with less apple next time (using only 2 peeled apples). I think it would make a great recipe for kids as a sneaky way to get in a few extra fruit servings, but also because the flavor of the apple is noticeable and really yummy. It’s also a great easy recipe for your aspring chef teenager to make on their own. Or better yet, the not so cooking inclined spouse!

A few notes on ingredients…be sure to use a tart, firm apple such as Granny Smith, Winesap, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious. Use a good quality canned tomato since this is the backbone of your sauce. Plum tomatoes are prized for cooking because they have fewer seeds and it’s often the seeds that lead to bitterness. And don’t shred your apples too far in advance or they will brown. Do it when the recipe suggests. Here’s the recipe:

Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce
Spaghetti con salsa di Pomodorie e Mele
Region: Trentino Alto Adige


3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound apples, tart and firm
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup Grana Padano or Parmesan, freshly grated, plus more for passing


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.

This entry was posted in Entree, Italy, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Trentino Alto Adige. Bookmark the permalink.

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