After 37 days without a drop of rain, six-tenths of an inch fell on my garden yesterday, slowly enough to soak into the ground without much runoff. At last–a reprieve from watering! The only upside to the prolonged drought has been excellent fruit setting on my tomato plants. No rain means that the tomato flowers are open for pollination all day, and no rain means the bees are out doing their work nearly all day. Pictured is a single day’s harvest from my eighteen currently productive plants (after I gave some away).
So now that the tomatoes are rolling in, what to do with the torrent of red fruit? BLTs for breakfast, caprese salads for lunch, cherry tomatoes & feta for a snack: I’m eating and giving away tomatoes as fast as I can, but the tomatoes are gaining on me. Mainly because I don’t bother with canning tomatoes, and I don’t like to use fresh, “real” summer tomatoes in a heavy, long-cooked sauce. My goal is to use them all in a fresh state, as close to raw & delicious as possible.
A quick search through my shelf of Italian cookbooks uncovered Marcella Hazan’s Spaghettini col Sugo di Erbe e Pomodoro Crudo (p 140 in Marcella’s Italian Kitchen), which might rate this summer’s honors as the best uncooked tomato sauce. This simple preparation preserves the tomatoes’ fresh color, texture, and taste, while tempering their acidity with hot olive oil and a shower of fresh herbs. Happily, I had all of the ingredients growing right outside my back door. A bonus for the impatient cook: the sauce is easily prepared while the pasta cooks.
Marcella Hazan’s Thin Spaghetti with Herbs and Raw Tomato
- 1-1/2 pounds very ripe fresh tomatoes
- 3 T chopped fresh basil
- 1 T chopped fresh sage
- 3 T chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 T chopped fresh mint
- 1 pound thin spaghetti (and enough water to cook it)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt (preferably a flavorful sea salt)
- fresh ground black pepper
Halve the tomatoes, squeezing out the seeds with your hands. Chop the de-seeded tomatoes into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces. Place the chopped tomatoes and chopped herbs into a heat-proof serving bowl large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil until it is very hot (at least 375, as hot as for frying). Carefully pour the hot oil over the tomatoes; it should hiss and sizzle. Quickly stir the hot oil into the tomatoes and sprinkle on salt and black pepper to taste. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in rapidly boiling water and drain when it is still al dente. Add the cooked pasta to the tomatoes, using tongs or two spoons to mix thoroughly. Serve while still warm.