Thanks to this blog, I introduced small traditions into our everyday life that year after year help me to keep track of the flowing of time, of how I grow and evolve, as a human being, but also as part of a couple or a family.
I started to record through photos and recipes the various birthday cakes I’ve been baking for my special day every year: rustic, delicate, with rhubarb, but also classic as a cheese cake or a naked ricotta cake. I remember all the feelings, the expectations, the wishes I was making while blowing the candles.
This year I broke the tradition, and phoned a local pastry shop to order a millefoglie. It felt right, I didn’t want to stand up for hours to bake, I needed someone to bake exactly what I was craving. I felt a tingle of excitement when they asked me if they could write something on top, and I replied: a simple Auguri Giulia would do. But all through the phone call I was beaming.
Same can be said for the pasta al pomodoro.
Every year, depending on what is available in our vegetable garden, I tend to stick to a specific way of preparing my tomato sauce for pasta. There has been the aglione with olives and guanciale, garlicky and smooth, or the burst cherry tomato sauce, with basil and pine nuts. Friends, family, cooking class guests, all have experienced the sauce of the year, and actually contributed with their presence and preferences to shape the recipe.
So, what is Summer 2020 about?
It has been the summer of thick slices of watermelon, eaten straight from the fridge after my afternoon nap, and of giant bowls of macedonia, a fresh fruit salad made with seasonal peaches – nectarines, yellow, white, and donut peaches – plums, cantaloupe and summer pears. No sugar, just a squeeze of lemon, to indulge my current preference for fresh, tart flavours.
It has been the summer of cucumbers picked from the vines and sliced thinly, then dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar, the summer of boiled green beans and zucchini. I’ve been craving for pure, clean tastes, and this reflected also on the pasta al pomodoro that I elected my 2020 summer pasta.
Pasta alla crudaiola, pasta with a raw tomato sauce
Recipe developed in collaboration with Vignamaggio, an organic agriturismo and farm in the Chianti region.
This is the purest form of pasta al pomodoro, perfect for late summer tomatoes, when their flavour is so intense that they do not need heat, or other condiments, to become a sauce. Crudaiola comes from the word crudo, raw, as you’re going to use raw tomatoes to make this sauce, along with fresh basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
This makes for the perfect dish for hot summer days, when you don’t want to stand next to the stove for a long time: make the sauce in advance and let it marinade in the fridge for a few hours. You can cook the pasta at the very last minute and toss it with the raw tomato sauce, directly from the fridge: it will create a pleasant contrast in temperature, something to cherish during a summer dinner with friends.
A few words about the ingredients for this raw tomato sauce
Choose juicy, ripe tomatoes, with a thin skin. I like to pick different varieties – local cuore di bue, canestrini, but also beefsteak, Roma, cherry tomatoes… – so that they offer an interesting array of texture and flavour. Dice the tomatoes, removing the seeds. Should they have a thick skin, you can opt for peeling them, too. I usually dice the tomatoes and let them marinade in the fridge with herbs and olive oil for a few hours, preserving their texture, but feel free to mash them with a fork for a smoother sauce.
Fresh basil is my herb of choice, but you could try also with oregano, either dried or fresh, or mint. Garlic in this case is quite mandatory, as it adds depth of flavour: keep it whole, as I did, to infuse with its aroma the sauce, and remove it just before serving if you want to keep it gentle, otherwise finely mince it and add it to the diced tomatoes.
Needless to say, do not compromise on the quality of extra virgin olive oil.
It will exalt the flavour of this dish with its fruity, grassy, green aroma, or completely ruin it, should you use a bad one. Oh, and be generous with it. I used ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil for 4 people, and mopped the sauce left at the bottom of the pasta bowl with a piece of bread, not to leave anything behind.
For this recipe, I used Vignamaggio Prime Gocce, an extra virgin olive oil produced with the first olives picked in November at the farm, with an intense green colour, a distinctly fruity fragrance with notes of fresh olives and a bold and fruity flavour.
As for the pasta, I chose Vignamaggio linguine, slightly thicker than spaghetti, flat, made with an organic local variety of wheat, the ancient grano Verna.
This is a vegan dish, but if you like the idea, sprinkle the pasta with grated cheese: Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano or, even better, an aged salted ricotta, as the ones you can find in Puglia or Sicily.
Pasta alla crudaiola, pasta with a raw tomato sauce
- 600 g (1.3 lb) fresh ripe tomatoes
- 120 ml (1/2 cups) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
- 360 g (0.8 lb) linguine di grano tenero Vignamaggio
- Grated cheese to serve, optional
- Rinse the tomatoes and dice them, removing the seeds. Collect the diced tomatoes in a bowl, add the cloves of garlic, a few basil leaves torn with your hands and the olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, give it a thorough mix and cover with a plate, or cling film. Stash in the fridge to marinade for at least an hour.
- When you are ready to eat, bring a big pot of water to boil. When it is boiling, salt it and cook the pasta of your choice al dente.
- Drain the pasta, and toss it, when still very hot, into the bowl with the diced tomatoes. Add a few more leaves of fresh basil, and some cheese if you like, then serve the pasta immediately.
Vignamaggio and their new e-shop
Vignamaggio is an agriturismo and organic farm in the Chianti region. As a farm from the past, they have vineyards, olive groves, vegetable gardens, and a peaceful fruit orchard with pomegranate trees, apricot trees, fig trees, plums, apples and pears, along small fruits like blackberries, raspberries and currants. They also rear semi free-range Cinta Senese pigs.
You can not only enjoy their hospitality, in their estate or in their Hotel La Pensione in the village of Panzano in Chianti, but also their products now. They recently opened an e-shop where you can purchase their wine and extra virgin olive oil, the vinsanto, their jams made with local organic fruit and berries, and the pasta made with stone ground organic flour, made with their wheat of an ancient local variety.
I’ll be sharing soon on Social Media a video recipe made with some of these products, too, that I am sure you will absolutely love.
- If you want to learn more about the cereals grown in Vignamaggio here.
- More about the Cinta Senese pigs here.
- More about their orchard here.