Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer coming on/ Fusilli with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Herbed Feta

I suppose it's the combination of warm weather and the appearance of abundance in the food markets, but my brain has suddenly clicked into "summer mode". While food shopping the other day, I noticed that plum tomatoes were .79 a pound. That's a good price and while it isn't an indication this early that the tomatoes are local, their deep red color was enough to entice me into buying them. For the two of us, I purchased just 7 of the Roma tomatoes. I mention this because if you're making a fresh tomato  sauce, why not eat it fresh? You can feed up to 3 people with the sauce made from 7 of these rather large plum tomatoes. (I notice that when we get local tomatoes from New York and Jersey, I can find smaller plum tomatoes. These were probably grown in Mexico). So, using a paring knife, I cut a small X in the blossom end of each fruit. I put a pot of water on to boil, and at the same time filled a large pot with cold water and a tray of ice cubes. When the water comes to the boil, I put the tomatoes in a few at a time. After 30-35 seconds, you'll notice the skin of the tomato splitting. Immediately, take them out of the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water bath. Then continue till all the tomatoes are done. If you've followed this step, the tomatoes should peel easily and not be cooked at all.

In the picture above, you'll notice that the peeled tomatoes which I've halved have that white core to them which I will remove along with the juice and seeds. If these were backyard tomatoes that were allowed to ripen on the vine, you would see none of that hard white core. 

Here are the tomatoes with the seeds and juice scooped out (with my finger) and roughly chopped into smaller pieces.

I started my pan on medium heat (#5 if you have a numbered dial) and added a good amount of olive oil. This is a quick sauce. You want to retain as much flavor as you can so use a good olive oil and low heat. I have also added some tomato paste which I will cook along with 2 cloves of minced garlic.

Here are the tomatoes which I've just added to the pan. I immediately start breaking them up with a wooden spoon. At this point, I also start my pasta.
After about 2 minutes, you can see the tomatoes have broken down somewhat. I can now add some torn basil leaves (about half the amount I intend to use).

After a few more minutes, the tomatoes have broken down more. The sauce is still quite chunky. Turn off the heat. You want the tomatoes to retain their fresh taste, so I omit the usual final step of cooking the pasta and sauce together for a final minute. Now, I drain the pasta and add a little parmigiana to the sauce.

Here is the pasta and cheese added to the pan. Mix them into the sauce , add the rest of the torn basil leaves, and plate the pasta. Top each serving with 4 or 5 pieces of feta with herbs. I should mention, I found the cubed feta and herbs in olive oil  at Trader Joe's. You could also use mozzarella or Italian Fontina.




  1. I'm really craving the flavors of summer as well Joe. I always learn so much from your posts.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Thank you, Rachel. Coming from a smart girl like you, that is a real compliment.