The stream of ripe tomatoes that ends in my kitchen is starting slow down now. I always have mixed feelings about that happening. On one hand, I’m heartily and truly tired of doing up tomatoes for this coming winter. I’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 quarts of various forms of tomatoes, from sauce and stewed, to diced, to concentrated tomato paste and various soup bases. The nightmares of being chased by 5 gallon pails of tomatoes have just about ended, and my hand that was frozen in the position it takes on the food mill is nearly back to normal. I am now moving into the mourning stage, where I realize how much I’ll miss being able to augment any meal with some fresh, juicy tomato slices, or a fast tomato salad, bursting with ripe flavor. Pardon me, while I wipe away a few tears. And scrub all the tomato guts off my stove.
Knowing that I will soon have to wait 8 or 9 months for another fresh-from-the-garden tomato compels me to make the most of the ones we still have. Or maybe I want to make the least of them? Maybe it would be better to leave them as close to their natural state as I can and still call it cooking? And then swirl them into a bowl of angel hair pasta? Maybe dust the top of the whole thing with some freshly grated pecorino romano? Yeah – now, that sounds good.As you will see, the most time consuming part of this is prepping the tomatoes. I often am told that this procedure seems difficult, but it is really quite simple, and is not going to take very long at all when you are only doing a few tomatoes. You can do it ahead, even a few days ahead, and keep the chopped tomatoes in the fridge until you are ready to use them. I prefer to do them just a little while ahead and not refrigerate them, because the refrigerator is not a happy place for fresh tomatoes – they can sit on the counter, prepped, for even half a day, and be just fine.
- About 1 & ½ pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Several tablespoons olive oil
- 8-10 basil leaves, chopped coarsely
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- First – peel and seed the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Wash tomatoes and cut an X through the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Have a vessel of cold water standing by to cool the tomatoes. I use the sink for this. When the water is boiling, lower the tomatoes – 3 or 4 at a time – into the boiling water and leave for about 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes and place them into the cold water. Repeat until all of the tomatoes have been blanched. The skins should be easy to remove now.
- After removing the skins, cut out the core, and then slice each tomato in half cross-wise, through the thickest part. Use the tip of a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into a ½ dice and set aside.
- Start the water for your pasta, cooking as the directions on the package suggest. Don’t forget to salt the water.
- Put the olive oil in a wide sauté pan, and add the minced garlic. Turn the heat up to high, just until you see the garlic begin to sizzle a bit, and immediately lower the heat very low, so that the garlic is just barely cooking. Keep an eye on it, stirring every 30 seconds or so. You want to kind of poach the garlic in the oil, without it getting browned at all.
- When the pasta water begins to boil, drop your pasta. Immediately add the chopped tomatoes to the garlic in the sauté pan, and raise the heat to medium. Stir, and add a good sprinkle of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper.
- When the pasta is al dente [about 4 minutes for most angel hair], drain, and immediately add to the pan of tomatoes, along with the basil. Stir together, remove from heat, and serve with shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese, another light sprinkle of sea salt, a bit more pepper, and a little drizzle of olive oil.