Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta
Our Italian sister-in-law first made this dish for us when we were kids. In true Italian fashion, it was incredibly simple and incredibly delicious. This recipe is not exactly the same as hers, but I think it captures the magic of raw tomato sauce. The only catch is that the tomatoes have to be real, ripe tomatoes--from the garden or the farmers’ market. Winter grocery-store tomatoes won’t work, so enjoy it while good tomatoes are available!
|(This is her garden in Portland, OR. Tomatoes are on the left, trained up the trellis.)|
You basically make a tomato salad, which sits so the flavors meld while the pasta cooks (or not, if you’re in a hurry and make the sauce while the pasta cooks). Then you toss the hot pasta with the tomatoes to create the most delicious combination in the world.
The Tomato Salad
Combine the following ingredients in a very large bowl:
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized morsels. Big tomatoes are good, but cherry tomatoes, halved, will be great as well. I use a serrated knife (aka bread knife) to cut tomatoes so it’s easy to cut through the skins.
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced or crushed in a press. If you’re feeling ambitious or don’t like eating garlic raw, you can cook the garlic in a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil for about two minutes over low heat. But don’t let it brown!
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pound dried pasta—I always prefer thin spaghetti, but that’s just me. The recipe works well with long or short pasta.
As large a pot of well-salted water as you can muster. (A tablespoon of salt will be good!)
¾ cup fresh basil, chopped. I think it’s best cut into thin strips. To do that, find a few larger leaves and roll smaller leaves up inside them, as if making a cigar. Then chop across the rolled leaf (if it were a cigar, you’d be chopping small rounds).
Cook the pasta. Drain it moderately well (there can still be water coming out of the bottom of the colander in a small stream) and add it to the bowl with the tomato salad. Grind some pepper over the top, then toss well. Add the basil and toss again. If there seems to be a shortage of olive oil, add more as necessary. The best part will be the liquid in the bottom of the bowl, so make sure it gets all over the pasta. Taste and adjust for salt, and serve hot.