Summer meals are by nature effortless and straightforward. When the season is colder, a grey sky matching a monotonous drizzling rain, I take time to roast pumpkin wedges with rosemary and spices until caramelized. I braise beef shank with wine and tomato sauce until the meat is so tender that you can shred it with a fork. I simmer bean soups until the kitchen windows are clouded and rain disappear.
The comfort of a meal begins with the warmth of the preparation in the kitchen.
But my favourite summer meals all begin in the same way. I walk into the vegetable garden, have a quick look around to see what is ready and ripe. I usually pick a handful of tomatoes, a bunch of basil, then I come back home, weighing the fortune in my hands, the green smell of tomato leaves still lingering on my bare skin.
The comfort of summer meals lies in the carefree attitude that brings food to the table when the days are longer and the evenings are made of al fresh dinners, cricket serenades, icy-cold watermelon wedges and muffled chats over an already dark table.
Last year I declared my love to a smooth garlicky tomato sauce enriched with olives and guanciale. I cooked that sauce more than I would admit, becoming one of those tedious lovers who bore everyone proclaiming the virtues of their loved ones. I elected that sauce the pasta al pomodoro of my summer 2017.
This year all began in the vegetable garden.
We planted ciliegini, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, pomodori perini, a sweet yellow pear-shaped heirloom variety, and, for the first time for us, pomodori crispini, a striped dark green and red cherry plum tomato with a deep red colour flesh.
It would have been a crime to blend such colourful tomatoes into a smooth sauce. I will pick some canestrini for my garlicky sauce, as they have a dense consistency and low water content, making them the perfect tomatoes for a sugo.
The richness and diversity of my cherry tomatoes deserved a different approach, though.
A large pan hosts cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, basil and some chilli pepper to your taste. This is the beginning of my pasta al pomodoro of summer 2018.
The tiny plump tomatoes burst for the heat and melt into the olive oil, becoming a chunky sauce flavoured with basil and garlic. Isn’t it the quintessential taste of an Italian summer? The chili pepper adds a gentle heat and a handful of pine nuts gives some texture to the sauce.
I love how simple and straightforward it is. I love the sweet smell of bursting tomatoes that fills the kitchen. But mostly, I love to sit at the table and share this summery meal with my family or friends, having a second serving because the juiciest tomatoes fall without fail to the bottom of the bowl.
This burst cherry tomato sauce makes the perfect weeknight meal as you can prepare it in 15 minutes.
No more boring meals for the unexpected friends who show up for dinner. No more time spent hovering around a steaming hot stove when you’d rather sit outside in the breeze – or in front of the air conditioning, I do not judge!
If you want to make it more special and channel your Italian nonna, roll out some home-made spelt maltagliati and toss them with this sugo. Otherwise, choose penne or orecchiette, they both work perfectly with this chunky sauce.
Burst cherry tomato sauce for pasta. The recipe
Let’s talk now about the ingredients. Choose small ripe cherry tomatoes: the variety of colours and textures helps, though a bowl of ordinary plump red cherry tomatoes would work as well. Dose basil, garlic and chili pepper to taste: I prefer to be generous with basil (and olive oil), shy with chili pepper and moderate with garlic. Just follow your family preferences.
Toast the pine nuts before throwing them into the pan. If you are in a hurry just add them along the other ingredients, as I made today. Finish with some grated parmigiano or pecorino for a rounder and more intense sauce.
- 800 g of cherry tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Chili pepper
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 25 g of pine nuts (2 ½ tablespoons)
- Black pepper
- Pasta see the following recipe for the fresh maltagliati
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or aged pecorino
Wash the cherry tomatoes and collect them in a pan along with the unpeeled garlic cloves, the basil leaves, the pine nuts, the extra virgin olive oil, some crushed chili pepper and a generous pinch of salt.
Cook on medium flame, cover with a lid, for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the lid and crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Let the sauce cook for 5 more minutes and adjust the seasoning. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, season with salt and cook the pasta al dente.
Drain the pasta and toss into the pan with the sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and add a few turns of black pepper, toss once more and serve.
Home-made maltagliati with spelt flour
Maltagliati means badly cut, thus labelling this pasta as the easiest fresh pasta to make.
- 100 g whole spelt flour
- 100 g semolina flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
Sift the semolina flour with the spelt flour, place it on a wooden board and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs in the centre of the flour, add a pinch of salt and pour in the extra virgin olive oil. Mix the flours and the eggs with a fork, then start kneading the dough, until the dough is soft, elastic and it doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. You’ll need about 10 minutes. Let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature, wrapped in cling film or covered with a bowl.
After the resting time, roll out the dough: you can use a classic rolling-pin or the pasta maker. The most important thing, either you’re using the rolling-pin or the pasta maker, is to keep rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping until you get a dough that is paper-thin.
Let the pasta sheets dry on a floured wooden board for about 15 minutes, then cut with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter into lozenges or free forms.
You can use your maltagliati immediately or store them in the fridge for a day. They cook in salted boiling water in less than a minute. Drain and toss in the sauce.
You can freeze them, laying them on a floured tray, and collect them once frozen in a bag. When you cook the frozen maltagliati allow one more minute to cook.
Before you go… the video recipe!
2018 Saveur Blog Awards
Last year you made a magic. Our blog was selected by Saveur for their Saveur Blog Awards as finalist for the Most inspired weeknight dinners category. I had been dreaming about that day for years, since the beginning, and you helped me to realize a wild dream, to be a finalist in the most prestigious international award for food writers and food bloggers.
Let’s try to double that success: I’ll be grateful as always if you would nominate Juls’ Kitchen among your favourite food blogs also this year.
As last year, Most inspired weeknight dinners might best reflect the spirit of this blog: homey, daily and reliable recipes which make a difference and give an authentic Italian twist to your weeknight meals, since 2009. Almost ten years of blogging! Today’s pasta sauce, the baked eggplants, the stuffed eggplants, this French bean salad, or the minestrone, ot this apple cake, aren’t they the proof of it?
So if you want to cast your vote, follow this link and vote for www.julskitchen.com (you’ll need to type the address!). You have time until the 25th of July 2018. Thank you! 🙂
Here on my blog you can find several recipes for tomato sauce: the garlicky tomato sauce with olives and guanciale, the simplest passata and the famous pomarola. Do you have a favourite tomato sauce to make pasta al pomodoro? Here’s a few interesting links:
- The most famous Italian tomato sauce (abroad): Marcela Hazan’s tomato sauce.
- Audrey Hepburn’s favourite spaghetti al pomodoro. Did you know that Audrey loved to cook?
- Sara Jenkins ha her recipe for pasta al pomodoro on Tne Atlantic. This is as far as I am concerned the dish I would have on a desert island.
- How to make the perfect tomato sauce, by Felicity Cloake. You will read about olive oil or butter as fat in the preparation of a perfect tomato sauce. It depends a lot on where the recipe is from, making butter more a northern Italian ingredients and olive oil the preferred ingredients of Southern and Central Italy, including Tuscany.
- Spaghetti con pomodoro crudo. Yes, you can make spaghetti with fresh tomatoes skipping the cooking, too.