Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When the Tomatoes are Ripe - Tomato Basil Pasta

When August rolls around I only crave tomatoes. It seems they've been later than ever in coming around this year. But they're finally here. And that means one thing: Tomato Basil Pasta. It's my all time favorite. It tastes like summer, and it's about as perfect as a simple dish can get. My friends request it time after time. It's what I always make to impress whomever it is that is I want to impress. And it can only be made in the late summer months when each ingredient is at its very best.

It reminds me of late summer dinners on the porch, still dripping wet from our swimming pool. Of a warm Mediterranean night in Corsica when dinner started at 1opm and ended around 2am. Of a summer in Santa Cruz, cooking in the most gorgeous kitchen I've ever seen for people I loved. Of cooking for one in a stuffy studio apartment over the plaza in Ashland, Oregon with the first bottle of wine I got for free from the winery I worked at. Of a late night dinner eaten out of Tupperware in a caboose in Dunsmuir, while the rain poured and the wind howled outside, and we were on our first road trip together.

There's something about a dish that brings about that kind of nostalgia. It's comforting. And it feels important when you make it.

But be forewarned. Do not even attempt to make this dish when tomatoes are not in season. You will be sorely disappointed.

This is less of a recipe, and more of a set of guidelines. This is all about how it tastes to you. Measuring out tablespoons and teaspoons would just ruin it:

Tomato Basil Pasta

Pasta (I used fresh porcini pasta from Phoenix Pastaficio) bowtie and penne shapes are especially good for this.
good tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used 4 medium heirlooms, green, gold and red)
3-4 cloves of garlic, I mince the garlic and then create a sort of paste with the back of my knife and some kosher salt. You want the garlic to mix well with the juice of the tomatoes, almost like a salsa. If you don't make the garlic paste, mince it very finely
Basil, torn into small pieces, about 3/4 a cup to 1 cup
good extra virgin Olive Oil, a few tablespoons
Fresh Parmesan

Mix the tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil together. Add kosher salt to taste and let sit to sort of macerate for a half hour or so. Do not refrigerate.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water, according to package directions. If you're using fresh pasta (which I recommend) this should only take a couple minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato mixture. Taste, add salt and freshly ground pepper if needed. Top with grated or shaved Parmesan. Serve and enjoy.


  1. OK, well, sort of. Realized I had lots of stale bread so I did a sort of panzanella, substituting cubed bread for the pasta. Delicious!