Pasta with Raw Tomatoes

Tagliatelle al Pomodoro Crudo

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Yes, I’m back! I hadn’t intended to be away nearly so long but there you have it. I realize that I posted the Greta introduction recently but this post needed to be published ASAP. In this part of the world, the tomato plants have reached peak production. There’s no better time to prepare  Insalata Caprese,  Panzanella Salad, and Pappa al Pomodoro, as well as today’s pasta, than right now.

Surprisingly, this dish wasn’t served when I was a boy. With Grandpa’s garden easily meeting the tomato needs of both families, it’s a wonder that no one ever used a few of them to make this pasta. I can only say that I’m glad that I came upon the recipe a few years ago and have enjoyed it every August since.

If you google Pasta al Pomodoro Crudo, you’ll find there are many recipes for the dish. In its purest form, all that’s required to prepare the sauce are ripe tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, and salt & pepper, with pasta being the only cooked ingredient. Whether to use grated cheese when served is left up to the cook’s preferences. Some have added capers to the mix, and I myself have added anchovies. There are recipes that include onions that have been rinsed or lightly sautéed before being added to the pasta. Still more will lightly cook the tomatoes before adding the pasta. Of all the versions I’ve tried, the latter using slightly cooked tomatoes is the one I’ve avoided. For me, the taste of fresh tomatoes is what makes this dish so special. Cooking, no matter how slight, would ruin this for me. Nothing compares with the aroma of fresh tomatoes combined with basil and olive oil. When brought to the table, it’s practically intoxicating. Give it a try and I bet you’ll agree. Still not convinced? OK. What do you intend to do with all of those tomatoes you’ve been picking?

This is such a simple recipe. Just be sure to use ripe tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic. This is not the time for canned/jarred/dried ingredients. Once assembled, let the sauce rest for about an hour before cooking the pasta. (See Notes.) Lastly, the ingredient amounts listed below are merely guidelines. you may wish to have more/less tomatoes in your pasta. The same is true for the basil.

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Pasta with Raw Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 to 3 very ripe, medium-size tomatoes, seeded and chopped (see Notes)
  • hand-torn basil leaves, more for garnish.
  • 2 anchovies, minced + more, whole, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 lb (150 g) cooked tagliatelle (see Notes)
  • grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. Seed and chop the tomatoes.
  2.  In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, basil, garlic, anchovies (if using), and olive oil. Gently mix to combine. Cover and set aside.
  3. After about an hour, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and, following package directions, cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.
  4. Add the hot pasta to the raw tomato sauce and gently stir. If overly dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to moisten. (See Notes)
  5. Move to a serving platter and garnish with more torn basil and, if using, grated cheese and whole anchovies.

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Notes

You can use any tomatoes for this recipe just so long as they are ripe. I seed “regular” tomatoes but only halve cherry tomatoes when using.

Use any type of pasta you prefer. I like tagliatelle but either penne or farfalle, for example, will work just as well.

My use of anchovies started last year when I had some leftover from preparing pizza the night before. I’ve included the little fishies ever since. No need to use them if you don’t like them.

I’ve never let the sauce sit for hours or overnight because I fear the tomatoes would lose too much of their structure. The firmer the tomato the better, in my book.

If the final dish is too dry, you can also add a drizzle of olive oil with(out) the pasta water to moisten  it.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

I’m working on it …

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

We knew summer was in full-swing when platters of Mom’s tomato antipasti appeared on the dinner table. Another easy dish to prepare, these are a wonderful way to serve ripe tomatoes without touching the stove — a blessing on many August days.  You can learn how to prepare Mom’s dish HERE.

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Garlic Scapes Pesto

Basil and Garlic Scapes Bouquet

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With apologies, this blog entry, incomplete though it may be, was posted today in error. The recipe is complete, however. See you all soon.

Garlic Scapes Pesto Recipe

yield: about 1 cup (200 ml)

Ingredients

  • 3 oz (86 g) fresh garlic scapes — about a dozen, depending upon size
  • 1.5 oz (43 g) fresh basil leaves (see Notes)
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Pecorino Roman cheese, grated (see Notes)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (see Notes)
  • salt & pepper to taste

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Garlic Scapes Pesto

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Notes

I used a 2:1 ratio of garlic scapes to basil leaves. In retrospect, I should have gone 3:1. Although the pesto was flavorful, it wasn’t quite garlicky enough for my tastes.

For this amount of pesto, I would have used about 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

If I were to use this pesto immediately, I would have at least doubled the amount of extra virgin olive oil used above.

Because this recipe creates a paste, its yield is about 1/3 less than it would be if the grated cheese and all of the oil were added during preparation.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Today’s look back features Pasta al Salmone, Pasta with Salmon. I first tasted this delicious pasta while in Italy for the first time and it was love at first bite. It took me a number of years to replicate that dish but I finally did and now I can enjoy Pasta al Salmone without having to deal with airports and surly flight attendants. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Pesto

Pesto Genovese

Since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll go green for this week’s recipe. Pesto was one of those dishes that I had enjoyed eating but never thought to make myself. Several years ago, before I moved to my present home, a good friend taught me how to make pesto using basil grown in my garden. I haven’t bought another drop since. Sure, we all know that pesto is great when combined with hot pasta but that’s only part of the story. Pesto-dressed pasta can, also, be served at room temperature and, if chilled, the addition of a few ingredients will make a great pasta salad. Moving beyond pasta, I’ll use a couple of tablespoons of pesto to flavor soups, sauces, in sandwiches, and in meat marinades. When roasting a chicken or game hen, a little pesto between the bird’s flesh and skin results in a very flavorful main course. The fact is that pesto isn’t just for pasta anymore.

As easy as pesto is to prepare, there are a few things to remember. First off, be sure to use only fresh ingredients. This is not the time to use dried basil or powdered garlic. Although I use a food processor to make my pesto, a high-speed blender may be used, as well. No matter which appliance you use, do not over-process the basil. If you do, your basil will darken considerably. Lastly, pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to one week and frozen for much longer. If you choose to freeze your pesto, however, do not add any cheese to it because it will not thaw properly. Instead, make your pesto without the cheese, freeze it, and after you thaw it, mix the pesto into your pasta, adding cheese as you do. And if you are going to freeze it, consider putting your pesto into an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, remove the cubes, place them in a bag, and store the bag in the freezer. Doing so will ensure that you’ll defrost only what you need.

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Pesto Recipe

total time: approx. 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil leaves, about 2 oz
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Directions

  1. To your food processor or blender, add the pine nuts and garlic. Process about 20 seconds to chop the ingredients.
  2. Add the basil, salt, and pepper and pulse for a few seconds, about 3 or 4 times. This should give the basil a rough chop.
  3. Start the processor and pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Stop the processor about 5 seconds after all the oil has been added.
  4. At this point, the pesto may be frozen for later use (see above).
  5. If you are not going to freeze the pesto, add the grated cheese and process just long enough to combine the ingredients.
  6. Pesto is now ready and may be served over your favorite pasta.

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Variations

There are far too many variations to serving pesto for listing here. I mentioned a few in the introduction above and that was by no means a complete list. Pictured here is a dish of farfalle with chopped asparagus spears and marinated artichoke hearts, all of which has been dressed in pesto. I served it warm but I could have easily added some halved cherry tomatoes, a little chopped onion and maybe some chopped olives, stuck it in the fridge to chill, and served it as a pasta salad. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Notes

The amount of oil I use in this recipe will vary depending upon how I intend to use the pesto. If I’m going to use the it right away, I’ll use what’s indicated in the recipe above. If I’m going to make a chilled pasta salad, I may add a little more oil to the dish. If I’m going to freeze the pesto, I’ll reduce the amount of oil, as well as skip the cheese, making more of a paste. When I eventually use it, I’ll defrost it and coat my pasta with olive oil before adding the pesto. You, too, may wish to adjust the amount of oil to correspond with your own likes and dislikes.

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Pesto Trapanese

Tis the Season

It’s the dead of Winter here in Chicago. As I write this, it’s 3* and the wind chill is well south of 0*. If ever there was a time for comfort food, this would be it. Most often, that would mean a stew or soup or a baked casserole of some sort — lasagna comes to mind. This time around, however, I’m going in a different direction altogether. I need me some Summertime and its name is Pesto Trapanese.

I first saw Lidia Bastianich, of Lidia’s Italy fame, prepare pesto Trapanese and it has since become a Summer staple of my diet. Like so many of her recipes, a few simple, fresh ingredients are combined to create authentic Italian fare. This dish, in particular, has many of the same ingredients of a fine marinara, with one critical difference. It is a pesto and, therefore, not cooked. The result is a pasta dish that screams “Summer!” Literally prepared in minutes, the flavors are fresh, like you just picked the basil and cherry tomatoes moments before — and come August, that is exactly what I do. So, when Winter’s winds howl and “Snow” is mentioned in just about every weather forecast, I turn to pesto Trapanese for my escape and it’s Summer in the City  — well, for one meal, anyway.

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Pesto Trapanese Recipe

Ingredients

Fresh Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup slivered, blanched almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes, more to taste
  • 1 pepperoncini, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb cooked pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
  • 1/2 cup “pasta water,” held in reserve if needed
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Summer on a Plate

Directions

  1. Toast almonds over medium heat in frying pan atop stove, 2 – 4 minutes.
  2. Add almonds, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, & pepperoncini into food processor or blender and run for about 1 minute.
  3. Remove spout and gradually add olive oil until fully incorporated.
  4. Mix with cooked pasta. Add some/all of reserved pasta water if pesto is too thick.
  5. Add grated cheese, mix well, and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Pesto may be made in advance and reserved for a couple of hours at room temperature, before being added to freshly cooked pasta. If its use is delayed longer than that, it should be refrigerated and may be kept up to 2 days.

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