It starts with tomatoes. Fresh, ripe, splitting with sweet juice and umami goodness. This dish stands on the juice and flavor of fat tomatoes grown in your backyard or picked up at your local produce stand, so don’t settle for less!
June is early for tomatoes in my neighborhood, but our local college has a great ag program, where students grow tomatoes in greenhouses; producing fruits that are every bit as good as those I’ll harvest in a month or two from my home garden.
I’ve made this pasta for years, and it morphs with the ingredients I have on hand. Originally, the recipe came from the great cookbook, Fresh Food Fast. Delicious Seasonal Vegetarian Meals in Under an Hour, by Peter Berkley and Melissa Clark. You can see that recipe here, plus some of the minor changes I make to it.
Remember, if it is too early to pick or buy tomatoes bursting with flavor and life in your neck of the woods, wait for them before you make this dish. You’ll be glad you did!
Whole Grain Pasta with Salsa Cruda
Makes 4 servings
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and scored with a small X at the rounded end
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, plus additional to taste
- 3/4 pound whole wheat fusilli or penne
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Freshly milled black pepper
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt. Drop the tomatoes into the water and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and peel them under cool running water. Slice each tomato in half along the equator, remove the seeds with your fingers, and discard. Roughly chop the tomato flesh and place it in a large serving bowl.
Return the water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the oil, parsley, basil, chives, vinegar and garlic to the tomatoes.
Drain the pasta and transfer immediately to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Skip blanching and seeding the tomatoes. A lot of the flavor in tomatoes comes from the seedy section. I just chop the tomatoes and go forward.
I use a big variety of herbs, depending on what’s available. In the dish pictured above I used a combination of fresh thyme, parsley and green onions. I think this is my favorite combo ever. If you don’t have thyme, try mint. That’s good too.
Any kind of pasta works. I made the dish pictured above with Jovial brand gluten free capellini. Molto delizioso!