That’s perfect for this time of year when the bounty of late summer tempts us with possibility and potential. Even non-gardeners might have succumbed to growing at least one tomato plant on their porch or deck. From large Beefsteaks to the full spectrum of cherry tomatoes, this is the time to harvest and use fresh tomatoes. It’s also the time to choose among the many ways to preserve them for the coming months. Nothing will remind us of summer more than the tomatoes we “put up” for use when the temperatures drop and the skies are grey.
For this issue spanning the gilded days of late summer to the darkening days of fall, I offer three approaches for bringing Italy to your table.
First, a quick uncooked Tomato Sauce—Salsa Cruda—to toss with hot pasta. Next, a no-fail approach to slow roasting tomatoes that you will always want in your refrigerator, and finally, a brown butter with sage sauce to use with some of the excellent Italian fresh raviolis available from grocery stores like Trader Joes, Costco, and PCC.
Fresh Tomato Sauce for Pasta—Salsa Cruda
As always, this recipe represents my approach to cooking. The basic process is what you need to know and the ingredients reflect your particular taste profile. It is a is a perfect example of how to think about ingredients and flavors.
The basic ingredients are obvious and wonderful: the freshest tomatoes possible, fresh basil, high-quality olive oil, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese and, of course, good pasta. I offer other options below to try as you are either tempted or wanting to experiment.
- 1 pound pasta: Some recipes call for large shapes such as rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli, while others specify angel hair pasta. Yet again, a matter of choice.
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta cooking water
- 4 cups halved, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes: They come in many colors, each with its own unique flavor.
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 10 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Other ingredients to add to tomato mixture, according to taste:
- 1/2 cup flavorful pitted olives (I like kalamata), lightly chopped
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- In a large serving bowl toss the tomatoes with the oil, crushed red pepper, and other ingredients you decide to use.
- Let the tomato mixture marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes—even several hours—tossing occasionally.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Stir the pasta into the boiling water.
- When the water returns to a boil, uncover the pot.
- Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente, following package directions.
- Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Drain the pasta well. Stir the reserved water into the tomatoes.
- Add the pasta and toss. Add the Pecorino or Parmesan, toss again and serve.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
I read about this way of roasting tomatoes in A Homemade Life, a terrific food memoir by Molly Wizenberg. Again, you can choose how much spice you want to use. Tip: Use the sugar since it will enhance the flavor.
Wizenberg suggests using Roma tomatoes as they are dense and not so juicy and available year-round. But you can use any tomatoes you want, just check them after a few hours to see how they are doing. This recipe will give you enough to try them in a variety of ways. Of course, you can double the recipe and use more baking sheets.
- 3 ½ lbs. Roma tomatoes (about 20) or other medium-size tomatoes
- 1-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- Any or all of the below: Ground coriander, sumac, dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon of each)
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees
- Wash and dry tomatoes. Trim off stem ends and cut in half.
- Place in a large bowl with oil, sugar, and spices and toss them gently with your hands to coat them all.
- Place them cut side up on a baking sheet covered with either foil or parchment, which makes clean up really easy!
- Bake in the oven for 4-6 hours.
- Remove from the oven and let cool. They can be refrigerated for up to a week.
You want the tomatoes to have crinkled edges and shrunk to half their size. They should still be juicy in the center.
These make a wonderful side dish with any kind of protein. They can be used in all sorts of sandwiches, including grilled cheese. Heated with a fried egg on top, they make a terrific brunch.
Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
Once you know how to make this you will find lots of place to use it—over fish, roasted chicken, or vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, or broccoli. It goes over all kinds of pasta and is terrific on mashed potatoes.
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
- 1 clove garlic (crushed and chopped)
- 1/4 cup sage leaves (coarsely chopped)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over low-medium heat. When the butter begins to get just slightly bubbly, add the chopped garlic clove.
- Stir the garlic in the butter for 1 minute. Add the chopped sage to the garlic butter and continue stirring and cooking the mixture for 1 to 2 additional minutes, until the butter has turned very light brown and has a rich, nutty aroma.
- Season the sage sauce with ground black pepper.
Makes enough for one pound of pasta.
- When buying or picking fresh sage, check to make sure the leaves are aromatic and have no soft spots or dry edges.
- To store fresh sage, wrap the sage leaves in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Plan to use the leaves within four to five days. Fresh leaves that are covered in olive oil can be stored for much longer in the refrigerator, about three weeks.