Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Summer Tomatoes

I subscribe to NPR's The Splendid Table Newsletter. Lynne Rossetto Kasper offers a delicious sounding fresh tomato pasta sauce in the August 1 edition. Since it is that time of year, I thought I would pass it along for those who do not subscribe. Bon Appetit!

August 1, 2007

Dear Friends,

With this recipe, the only thing you have to cook is the pasta. Obviously the tomatoes and olive oil have to be prime, but that shouldn't be a problem right now. The trick here is letting the tomatoes mellow with the olive oil, salt and the two peppers.

If you can, try Barilla pasta made with dried beans and whole wheat. It's called "Barilla Plus." As much as this sounds like an abomination to you Italophiles, trust me, this is a good tasting pasta, and it doesn't suffer from easy breaking and the danger of tasting like cardboard that plagues most whole wheat noodles. Do stay with the spaghetti shape; the stubby version doesn't hold up.

Mellowed Fresh Tomatoes for Pasta
Copyright 2007 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main dish

  • 1 clove garlic, split
  • 3 pounds richly flavored tomatoes (if possible, one-third cherry type, one-third mellow-tasting, and one-third low-acid), unpeeled, unseeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 generous pinches hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti, or linguine
  • 6 quarts boiling salted water
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn

  • 1 cup fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)

1. Vigorously rub a pasta serving bowl with the garlic and discard the clove. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, oil, and the salt. Gently combine. Let stand at room temperature from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

2. When ready to eat, cook the pasta in fiercely boiling salted water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and turn it into the pasta bowl. Quickly add the black pepper and basil, and toss everything together. Taste the pasta for seasoning and serve. If you like, pass cheese at the table


  • I discovered a trick for making pasta with raw tomato sauces taste lustier. Slightly undercook the pasta. Drain it. Spoon the juices that raw sauces always throw off into the empty pasta pot. Set it over medium-low heat, add the pasta and toss until the juices are absorbed, then add the pasta to the sauce. Pasta and raw tomato sauce are served at room temperature, never chilled.

  • Exceptionally good tomatoes and olive oil you want to eat with a spoon are the only requirements for this recipe. Try a variety of tomatoes if possible—the punchy little Sweet 100's or Sun Golds, mellow beefsteaks and maybe one or two sweet yellow or orange ones. Tear the basil with your hands, rather than chopping with a knife. You enjoy more of its fragrance this way.

  • For fresh, kicky olive oil, keep a lookout for fresh-pressed oils from the Southern hemisphere. You'll find the 2007 harvest coming from Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

  • Field-ripened tomatoes are in abundance at farmers' markets and roadside stands now until the end of September. Heirloom and older varieties are worth looking for, especially the "black" tomatoes from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—like Black Krims, Chris's Ukraine, Gypsy Blacks and Black Russians. Of course, don't ignore better-known fruit like the Brandywine, Rutgers, German Striped, Oxheart and Zebra. Sweet, low-acid tomatoes such as White Wonder and Taxi Cab are a good foil for higher contrast varieties like Sun Gold, Sweet 100s, Red Currant, Early Cascade and White Beauty.

  • Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Farm stand tomatoes will likely be ripe when you purchase them, but if another day or two is needed, place them stem end down in a basket or on the kitchen counter to finish ripening.


When farm stands are overflowing with delicious ripe heirloom tomatoes we love to make a meal of them. Pick up as many varieties as you can find. Cut them into thick slices and arrange them on a big platter. Drizzle on some good olive oil, a shower of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Scatter torn basil leaves over all. For a heartier dish, tuck slices of fresh mozzarella (the one that's packed in liquid) among the tomatoes. Add a loaf of chewy whole-grain country bread, a glass of chilled white Arneis wine from Italy's Piedmont region, and life will be very, very good.

Have a great week,


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