I have a fetish. For tomatoes.
Trolling the farmers markets this time of year is always bittersweet. I anticipate fall’s bounty but bidding farewell to the now spartan displays of stone fruits, fresh basil and tomatoes adorning tables at the markets, well, it makes me a bit blue.
During the summer months, I often swoop up–weekly– several boxes of colorful baby heirloom tomatoes–they look like little jewels from Tiffany’s in their rustic, turquoise boxes– and end up making way more Insalata Caprese for friends than is humanely necessary.
Same goes for my greedy possession of Green Zebras, Cherokee Purples, Big Rainbows, you get the idea.
My next several posts will all involve the tomato, the glorious tomato. First up is a lovely, simple tomato sauce I made with a bunch of fresh plum tomatoes. I saw this in Gourmet magazine a year ago and it recently re-ran again this summer. There’s a enough garlic in here to slay a half-dozen vampires (2 whole bulbs, not cloves) but it mellows plenty after an hour of cooking
I don’t make fresh tomato sauce (not living up completely to my’ fresh’ online persona) mainly because San Marzano tomatoes are the indisputed king of canned tomatoes. Little can top these canned delights. From the Italian region of Campania, they are grown in the volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. They have a very complex, rustic almost smoky taste and are in endless supply in my pantry.
The following sauce has a very elegant tomato taste with nice warm notes of the cooked garlic. I added a little fresh basil at the end along with a spritz of good olive oil. Pasta note that I will repeat whenever given the chance: remember to cook your pasta 2 minutes under the directions on the box. Toss it with your sauce on the stove and allow the noodle and condiment to become one. Serve it in warm bowls with a healthy shaving of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Adapted from Marina Riccardi, La Vetrichina, San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy
2 lb ripe plum tomatoes (see cooks’ note, below)
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and halved lengthwise and any green sprouts from center discarded
3/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool, then peel, seed, and chop.
Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, red-pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Season with salt.