For devotees of Italian cooking, July is a welcome time. The first homegrown tomatoes are beginning to hit the markets and farm stands, making their bland and pithy winter cousins at least a temporary memory. “Real” tomatoes at last!
I have wonderful memories of my mother making quart after quart of crushed tomatoes every summer, using the bounty from my aunt’s little backyard garden. No food processor here, just her trusty blender. But she always made enough to share with me. We hoarded them in the freezer for making spaghetti sauce all winter long.
I have many recipes that I make only in mid-summer when tomatoes (and fresh basil) are at their best. We love Caprese salad—thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes layered with creamy mozzarella or burrata cheese. I often roast fresh Roma tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs, and toss with pasta for a very different “sauce.” And even the reluctant fish-eater in my house will succumb to my baked flounder topped with fresh tomatoes and basil leaves.
At least once a season, I make pasta with an uncooked tomato sauce. I have long lost the actual recipe but I know it well. It is such a nice break from grilled food, and the only cooking needed is for the pasta. It requires the best tomatoes you can find, and the quantity of ingredients can be adjusted to the amount of sauce you want to make. Many years ago, when downtown Harrisburg was just beginning its resurgence, my family and several friends were regular patrons of a little 2nd Street restaurant called the Zephyr Express (at the location of today’s Burger Yum). They served a pasta dish very much like this. Along with their Long Island iced tea, it was one of my favorites.
Pasta with Uncooked Tomato Sauce
- 4 cups of peeled, chopped ripe tomatoes. (Any kind will do, but Roma or Italian tomatoes have more pulp and less juice.)
- Good extra virgin olive oil
- A cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more if you like)
- Lots of shredded fresh basil
- A few cloves of peeled garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
This is the easy part. Place all the ingredients above in a large bowl, and let the mixture sit for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend. You can also make this early in the day, place it in the refrigerator, and it will be ready to toss with pasta in the evening.
This dish is fresh and light and tastes like summer sunshine in a bowl. I have developed affection for the new light and crisp rosé wines that are very different from the sweet versions of old. One would be perfect with this pasta. Maybe a little fresh fruit is all that is needed to complete the meal.
A summer day. Fresh tomatoes and bright green basil. So many possibilities. You really can’t go wrong!