The time of year when tomatoes are at their ripest point and when they’re not terribly expensive at the grocery store or farmer’s market is a time I know we all look forward to. Besides eating those luscious, juicy, bright red fruits all alone, in their glory, or with a sprinkle of sea salt on top (crazy good!), I love using them for fresh tomato sauce to put over pasta, of course!
Maybe you don’t quite know about my “thing” with pasta. Now’s as good a time as any to come clean about it, I guess. I was hardwired as a small, carb loading child to obsess over, dream about, and, above all, devour, pasta of any kind with any topping, in any quantity (someone special took me here for the pasta and wine tasting menu for my birthday and it was incredible! I could hardly eat for 3 days afterward, though.) Pasta is my favorite food, and is what I most look forward to cooking and eating at restaurants. The possibilities are endless.
And I digress. Back to the fresh tomato sauce. Obviously, because the tomato sauce is served over pasta, it’s something I love to make. This particular sauce is so simple and requires very few ingredients, which makes it particularly weeknight friendly. It’s perfect for the end of summer when the weather is exhausting, when the evening seems to last all night, and when you don’t feel like slaving over the stove for too long.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
1 pound pasta
6 or 7 large ripe tomatoes, washed
extra virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Fill a large sauce pot with water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, draw an "x" into your tomatoes using a knife.
Once the water is boiling, add the tomatoes and cook for just a few minutes, until they soften a bit. Remove them from the water and let them cool.
Using the same pot, bring the water back to a boil and then salt liberally before adding the pasta. Only cook the pasta until nearly al dente. It'll finish cooking in the skillet with the sauce, allowing the pasta to absorb the tomato flavors and meld better.
Once tomatoes are cool, peel the skin off (the purpose of the x mark is to allow the skin to break off easily. It shouldn't be difficult to take off the skin at this point.) Then, chop the tomatoes.
Heat a skillet on low heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the minced garlic, and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell a soft garlic flavor. Be sure your garlic doesn't burn.
At this point, add the tomatoes to the garlic (it'll smell really great!), coat with olive oil, season with kosher salt and pepper, and let cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until the tomatoes burst and expell their juices. If your sauce is too watery, add some tomato paste and stir. Let the tomato paste cook off for a couple of minutes so it doesn't taste piercingly sweet. Alternatively, if the sauce is too dry, put in about 1/2 a cup or more of the pasta water to lighten it up.
Sometimes when I make this sauce, depending on the tomatoes I use, it tastes sort of acidic. If you encounter this problem, too, you can do one of two things to remedy it. Choice one is to add a teaspoon of sugar. This will add a sweetness which will contrast the acidity. Another option is to add a tablespoon of (unsalted) butter. The creaminess of the butter will also balance out the acidity. Either option will work fine.
Once the sauce is finished, check to see if there is enough salt & pepper, and add the chopped basil leaves. I often add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a bit of spiciness, but this isn't necessary. Then, add the pasta right to the sauce, coating it with the tomatoes, and finish cooking it for a few minutes until the pasta is tender and al dente.
Adapted from Food Republik