Monday, August 31, 2009

Pomodori, part 1

What are the best tomatoes to buy? The ones at your local farmer's market! Tomatoes are in full season right now on the East Coast, and it's the perfect time to buy them and make pasta sauces from scratch, or perhaps an insalata caprese.

I like to buy cherry or grape tomatoes and quickly cook them in a skillet with olive oil and just a touch of garlic. Throw in some fresh basil at the end and enjoy. These particular tomatoes are called black cherry tomatoes. They are not only dark in color, but they actually have a hint of black cherry flavor.

I like the concentrated sweet flavor of these smaller tomatoes for sauces. Another benefit is that the skin on these is basically negligible in the sauce. Big tomatoes have tougher skin that ends up getting in the way in a sauce, so you have to peel them first with a vegetable peeler or blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water and the skins will fall right off.

Next time, I'll talk about canned tomatoes, since tomato season will soon be over, sadly.

Friday, August 7, 2009


If you think I'm about to recommend what kind of pesto to buy, forget it! You should never buy pesto. Make it at home. It is so easy and so much better. When basil is in the summer, I like to make small batches that I can keep around for a few days to make for a quick and tasty lunch or dinner.

Use basil that has just been picked. You can get that by growing your own, buying it at a local farmer's market or some grocery stores sell small basil plants that are still alive with the root in water in a plastic bag.

Place in a food processor:
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped first
2 cups of basil leaves, tightly packed
3 tablespoons of pinenuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Process these together into a paste. Boil the water, add a lot of salt, and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Grate 1/2 cup of parmiggiano reggiano and 2 tablespoons of pecorino romano. Mix the two cheeses into the paste.

Before dumping the cooking water, scoop 1/4 cup of the water to use in the pesto. Now drain the spaghetti and put back into the pot to toss with the pesto. Add a little at a time until you right amount. You don't want too much green in there. You can add a little of the salty cooking water to help distribute the pesto. Now taste that. It should be delicious. You can add some butter for more deliciousness, but it's not necessary.

If you're not going to use all the pesto, don't add the cheese to the pesto you plan to save. You should add the freshly grated cheese only when you are ready to eat it. This recipe will make enough for 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of pasta, so you will have leftover if you're cooking for one or two people (1/4 to 1/2 lb).

Buon appetito!