Summertime tomato pasta
“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes / What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes / Only two things that money can’t buy / That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.” — John Denver
It’s September. Farmers markets and farm stands have all types of tomatoes. It’s tomato season!
Soft, juicy, tart and sweet, garden tomatoes come in as many varieties, colors, and sizes as flowers do. Some are red, others are orange, others are yellow. Some are big, some are little. Each variety has a unique flavor. A bouquet of tomatoes.
Author Lewis Grizzard said: “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
“I have a love affair with tomatoes and corn,” says chef Alice Waters. “I remember them from my childhood. I only had them in the summer. They were extraordinary.”
Fresh-picked, local summer tomatoes — in all their myriad varieties — are different from their hard, bland winter cousins. That’s because many supermarket tomatoes are picked green, ripened with ethylene gas and shipped across the continent in refrigerated trucks. The result looks like a tomato, but doesn’t taste like one. In order to have tomatoes during the winter, modern agriculture has produced the hard, tasteless, round, starchy red thing that accompanies a winter salad of iceberg lettuce and bottled dressing.
Writer Andy Rooney quipped: “The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except that you can’t eat it. We should make every effort to make sure this disease, often referred to as ‘progress,’ doesn’t spread.”
Take a vine-ripened, fresh-picked, locally grown, garden or farmers’ market tomato — one that hasn’t traveled across the continent. Place it in the refrigerator for three days. The result will resemble a supermarket winter tomato that has been shipped across the country.
Good chefs know this. Julia Child explains it this way: “If you’re buying tomatoes pick them up and smell them — they should have a lovely perfume. They need to be kept at 50 degrees or above … because that’s when they develop their flavor.”
“Vine-ripened tomatoes in season should be tampered with as little as possible. After all, who are we mortals to think we can improve upon perfection itself? I like to use them fresh only when in season, and prefer to use a good brand of canned tomatoes off-season,” says cookbook author Mollie Katzen.
Restaurateur Jose Andres says, “There is nothing better than picking up sun-warmed tomatoes and smelling them, feeling them and scrutinizing their shiny skins for imperfections, dreaming of ways to serve them.”
There are so many ways to serve them! Fresh tomatoes are wonderful in all types of salads and sandwiches. But one of the best ways I’ve found to serve them is Ina Garten’s fresh tomato pasta. The sauce is not cooked… but marinated. You can find her recipe all over the web — here is one link. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/summer-garden-pasta
Here are two slightly different versions.
Greek-style fresh tomato pasta
The only thing to cook is the pasta.
About 50 cherry tomatoes from a garden or local farm, cut in half (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric, optional
1 large or 2 small cloves fresh garlic
15 large fresh basil leaves (about 1/3 cup)
1 or 2 Tablespoons good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I love Asgard feta for this)
1 cup good quality pitted, marinated olives
1 cup cooked (or canned, rinsed and drained) garbanzo beans
1 cup (8 ounces) uncooked penne or other pasta
1 teaspoon salt
Early in the day, rinse and chop the tomatoes. I like to use the small red and orange cherry tomatoes, cut in half (and we have a lot of them). But you can use large tomatoes and chop them too. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and turmeric, if using. Stir. Mince garlic and basil; stir in. Drizzle with olive oil and stir again. Allow to marinate at room temperature several hours. Do not refrigerate.
About an hour before serving, stir in crumbled feta, olives and beans.
When ready to eat, cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and stir in.
Fresh tomato and zucchini pasta
Zucchini is abundant this time of year and goes well with tomatoes.
8 ounces pasta (I like penne or ziti for this)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 clove garlic
2 cups diced zucchini
1 1/2 pounds garden or farm market tomatoes
10 large fresh basil leaves (about 1/4 cup)
1/3 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta in water with 1 teaspoon of salt according to package directions.
Heat olive oil in skillet. Peel and dice an onion, add, and cook about 5 minutes. Add diced zucchini and minced garlic, and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until desired tenderness.
While pasta and veggies are cooking, chop tomatoes into half-inch chunks and place in a bowl. Add chopped fresh basil and the remaining half teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. Chop the mozzarella into half-inch chunks and set aside.
Drain the pasta. In a large bowl, combine hot pasta and diced mozzarella. Add cooked veggies and stir. Stir in the fresh tomatoes. Serve immediately, with a salad of fresh garden greens.
For a higher protein dish, add some diced cooked chicken or cooked beans (garbanzos or white beans work well).
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.