An interview with myself:
“How important is salt to you?”
“You mean in my cooking?”
“I love to cook. I really love to cook. It is the oxygen in my water. It encourages brain cell, heart cell and soul cell growth when I cook. If you took away the salt, I think I would cook because I had to eat. The salt gives life to the food. The right amount of salt can take food to its deepest and fullest and the essence of itself. The magic is in the right amount.”
“How do you know?”
“How do I know what?”
“the right amount.”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“I can’t tell you how to love, I can’t tell you how to leave, or when to stay.”
“It’s enough when it’s enough and when it’s not enough, it’s not enough.”
“That’s good; that’s enough.”
I am making sauce tonight and when I make my sauce, first I salt the onions and garlic (I leave the garlic in whole halves) that are in the pan with a little olive oil schlepped all the way from Montevarchi. When the onions taste better than you ever thought to imagine, that’s the right amount of salt. Cook that onion until it has no more resistance to your tooth. Add a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary or marjoram. Add the chopped meat, and as soon as you get it in the pan, salt that too. Cook through completely over medium heat. For one onion, three cloves of garlic, a pound of meat, use 2 28 ounce cans of whole plum tomatoes from somewhere around Naples. Preferably San Marzano. Squish them up with your hands. Your hands need to know what it is to crush a tomato. It will bring you closer to the tomato. Get them in the pot and simmer for at least an hour. Taste for salt. Not too much, never too much, just enough.
When the pasta water is boiling and ready for action, taste it. It should taste like a well seasoned soup. Drop in the pasta and cook the pasta until it almost done, but not quite. There should be a faint trace of a thin white line in the center when you take a bite. Drain and save a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Get some sauce hot in a pan (not all of it because you don’t know how much you will need.) Add the pasta. Add enough sauce to coat well; you are looking to dress the pasta but not drown the pasta. Add freshly grated parmesan. Taste for salt. Go tiny pinch by tiny pinch until you have it right where you want it. You will know when you get there.