Like most of the recipes that I bother to share in this space, this is less of a guideline and more of a plea. A plea to get yourself to a farmers’ market (or to your very own plot of earth) and pick up the last of the summertime tomatoes before they’re gone and you’re left to wallow in your tomatoless greif. If I’ve said it once (and I have), I’ve said it a thousand times: late-season tomatoes are the best ones. One can grow weary from all the crowing about heirloom tomatoes, but then you bite through the thin, mottled skin, and you’re reminded why you just paid your weight in gold for the privilege. My favorite way to honor the flavors is to eat as much fresh tomato pasta as often as I possibly can.
The key to this recipe is excess. Not only should you eat ungodly amounts of the finished product, you should also use more salt than seems reasonable, chop more tomatoes than you think you need, use the entire bunch of basil, not a few measly leaves, and decide to go whole hog and slice the whole ball of mozzarella. Boil a pound of pasta and don’t stop yourself from having seconds. I like to salt my tomatoes first and let them stew in their own briney juices while the pasta boils. If you find yourself with a blister pack of basil, use all of it. If you find yourself with a large bunch from a farmer-friend, use all of that, too. Step-by-step instructions below!
Fresh Tomato Pasta
1 pound pasta (any shape’ll do)
4-5 heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 large bunch basil, chopped
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, cubed*
A generous glug of olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1. Roughly chop a collection of your favorite heirloom tomatoes. (There are no rules about how many tomatoes to use, or which kinds. Let your heart be your guide. I like to use as varied a group as possible.) Put tomatoes and all of their juices into a large bowl.
2. Salt tomatoes liberally and add cubed mozzarella and black pepper to taste. Coat with a generous glug of olive oil and set aside.
3. Boil pasta in salted water. Once cooked, drain quickly, retaining some of the pasta water.
4. Add hot pasta to the chopped tomatoes and mozzarella. Stir in the chopped basil. Add pasta water if you need it (though the tomato juices will ideally be liquid enough).
5. Serve immediately. The dish will be warm, not piping hot, which is exactly what late-summer weather calls for.
*There are near limitless ways to alter this recipe to suit personal taste and the contents of your refrigerator. A hard cheese like a pecorino or a parmesan would be as lovely as a mozzarella. The addition of fresh corn, cut directly from the cob is delightful. A hearty sprinkling of hot pepper spices things right up. The only mistake you can really make is not making it at all.
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