From Scratch: Simple solution for tomato overload


I saw a cartoon recently that made me chuckle. A suburban couple were standing on their deck, cocktails in hand, and the husband says to the wife, "Summer's here. Do you want to start talking incessantly about tomatoes or corn?"

This week I'll start with tomatoes.

Toward the end of what seems like a chilly summer, my Brandywine tomatoes are finally ripening. Now every bit of counter space in my kitchen is covered with tomatoes.

Not to worry, though. A few years ago, my friend and cooking guru, Nina, introduced me to one of the most delicious pasta sauces I've ever tasted. She called it "Summer Pasta," which is appropriate because it allows the cook to enjoy the season rather than standing over a hot stove.

Fortunately, here in York County we have in abundance the primary ingredient — fresh field-ripened tomatoes. If you have just found a bargain in the market or the vines in your garden are overflowing, give this simple recipe a try.

Recipe: The first step is to take a couple of pounds of tomatoes and peel them. My father could do this with a knife, but I am not that adept. Instead, I bring a pot of water to a boil, put the tomatoes in for one minute (I use a timer) and then remove them with a slotted spoon.

With a small knife, cut out the core at the top and then slip off the skins. Cut the tomatoes into one-inch pieces and put them in a bowl.

Chop two cloves of garlic finely. If you are a garlic fan, you can add more. Then coarsely chop a large handful of fresh basil and add that to the tomatoes along with salt and freshly ground pepper.

I usually add about a teaspoon of salt, but you can adjust that amount to taste.

Finally, add half a cup of your best olive oil and stir. Let the mixture sit unrefrigerated for an hour or longer so the tomatoes will macerate and the flavors will blend.

Serving: When ready to serve dinner, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta. The best choices are shapes that will hold the sauce. One of my favorites is Barilla's campanelle, or little bells, which have hollow centers for capturing the small pieces of tomato. Medium shells will work well, too.

The idea is to choose a shape that will trap and hold the chunky sauce as it moves from plate to mouth. Save the spaghetti for smooth tomato sauces.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it well, toss with the sauce and serve immediately. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and enjoy.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.