Audrey Hepburn's Absolute Favorite Pasta Dish

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Audrey Hepburn is best known for her iconic acting roles in films such as "Roman Holiday" (1953), "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961), and "My Fair Lady" (1964). Less known, however, was her personal real-life role as a home cook and her overall love of food — pasta in particular. We're privy to her particular penchant for all things pasta thanks to two different books about her, written by her sons. Both reveal that Hepburn's kitchen was her happy place and that cooking, as well as eating, brought her great pleasure. They also share that her favorite of all recipes was a rather simple spaghetti al pomodoro.

Traditional Italian pomodoro tomato sauce can be made with fresh tomatoes but is more often made with the canned variety, making for a quick and tasty dish. It differs from marinara in that it has a thicker texture and is usually made with just a few ingredients — namely tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and basil. Some versions are made with a mix of vegetables for added flavor and chunkiness whereas the secret umami boost in Giada De Laurentiis' pomodoro sauce is her addition of leftover Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rinds.

In the book "Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit" by her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer, her recipe is shown to be made with a classic mirepoix of diced onions, celery, and carrots, which are simmered with fresh basil and Roma tomatoes. Hepburn's preference was to serve the sauce over spaghetti noodles with a dusting of grated parmesan.

Audrey Hepburn's spaghetti al pomodoro two ways

A different version of the recipe is presented in "Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother's Kitchen" by her other son, Luca Dotti. Here, the recipe calls for vine-ripened tomatoes (Dotti suggests homegrown or San Marzano from Italy), which are softened with the vegetables, and then simmered together with the basil and olive oil. Along with the seasonings of salt and pepper, this pomodoro also gets a pinch of sugar to balance out any bite from the tomatoes. The big difference is that in this preparation, once cooked and cooled, any large chunks are removed and the sauce is pureed smooth using a food mill, which also serves the purpose of removing the tomato skins and seeds.

The book also shares a variation of the sauce that Audrey Hepburn sometimes made, which Dotti endearingly calls Mum's Amatriciana. Amatriciana sauce is traditionally cooked with guanciale, a tender bacon alternative made from pork jowl or cured cheek lard. The recipe recommends using pancetta or bacon if guanciale isn't available, but notes that Hepburn made a lighter version with crisped prosciutto crudo from which she blotted out some of the fat once it was cooked.

Hepburn's devotion to her favorite food was no passing fancy. In "Audrey At Home," Dotti states that his mother was unequivocally addicted to pasta and couldn't live without it. She ate her beloved spaghetti al pomodoro at least once a week for years and wasn't shy about having seconds.

More of Hepburn's favorite pasta dishes

Among other pastas Audrey Hepburn enjoyed, Luca Dotti's book also describes her love of spaghetti alla puttanesca, an aromatic dish known for its pungent garlic and anchovies. She also made a version of penne alla vodka that was rich with butter and heavy cream, as well as her rendition of pasta al forno, which is like mac and cheese with a tomato-meat sauce. She would serve her pesto pasta when the legendary fashion designer Valentino Garavani would stop by for a visit.

Not one to discriminate amongst tasty foods, she had a number of other favorites too. After her death, Dotti discovered many more of his mother's collected recipes in a handwritten notebook that he then dutifully reproduced in his memoir. These include flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream, Turkish-style sea bass en papillote, mousse au chocolat, vanilla ice cream, and boeuf à la cuillère — a braised beef dish that she cooked for Hubert de Givenchy — another famous fashion designer who created the equally famous little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Other featured recipes include tricolor Caprese salad, the classic made with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, which Hepburn made her own by adding avocado. A potato and onion tortilla omelet was inspired by her Spanish housekeeper, and her recipe for pears in wine was made with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and red wine, along with Abate pears grown in her own garden.