In late August and September our home gardens and the local farmer’s markets get flooded with great tomatoes. This is a glorious time and one that should be fully exploited. I look forward to having tomatoes each and every day when they are at their peak knowing that in a few months I just won’t be able to get them.
While most pasta dishes call for canned tomatoes (and I’ve put up my share for the winter) I want to celebrate the fresh tomato. I was intrigued by several recipes that featured fresh tomatoes with pasta. The beauty is found in the simplicity but the flavors just didn’t pop enough for me so I set about tweaking the recipe to achieve maximum tomato flavor.
The first thing I adjusted was the pasta of choice. Most every recipe called for angel hair pasta. I hate angel hair pasta! It’s void of texture, it over-cooks in a blink of the eye, and it gets overwhelmed by the most delicate sauce. Instead I chose bucatini as this offers texture and it absorbs the sauce perfectly.
The biggest tweak of all was to reimagine the dish as a hybrid raw and cooked sauce. The character of the dish relies on raw, ripe tomatoes that get warmed by the hot, cooked pasta. I didn’t want to lose that but I did want to concentrate the tomato flavor and I didn’t want the complimentary ingredients (onion and garlic) to remain raw. To get the best of both worlds I sautéed the onion and garlic with red chili flake and then added the collected tomato juice with a bit of white wine and made a quick reduction. Eureka! This offered a wonderfully rich but vibrant base for the raw tomatoes and something decadent for the pasta to cling to.
Ingredients for Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
- 5 medium to large heirloom tomatoes (a mixed variety)
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves torn
- 1/2 cup Olive oil (your best extra virgin)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 pound dry bucatini (the best that you can find)
Method for Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
Chop three of the tomatoes, medium-small dice and scoop into a strainer with a large bowl below to collect the juices. Using a box grater, grate the other two tomatoes into the strainer using the largest hole side of the grater. Lightly salt the tomatoes and allow this sit for 30 minutes.
In a sauté pan sweat the onions, garlic, and red chili flakes. When the onions and garlic are soft and fragrant increase the heat to high and add the collected tomato juices and the wine. Reduce the liquid by at least half.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente.
Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the fresh tomatoes and the cooked vegetables and tomato water reduction, Parmesan, basil, and olive oil. Toss and serve.
Serve with a flavorful but modestly oaked white wine (I like a dry White from Italy’s Campania region or perhaps an Alsace Riesling.) Reds works well too as long they are light to medium-bodied with good acidity, low tannins, and modest oak. In other words no Cabs or similar wines rather a fresh Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, or Lagrein.