So, it’s late February and in Canada we are not nearing spring. Not where I am, at least.
But the days are longer and after a handful of snow storms, a few days straight without a snowfall tricks me into thinking winter’s end is near. I know I still have to struggle through more weeks of snow and wind and freezing rain as the norm; but seeing a package of beautiful, bright tomatoes at the store put me in the mindset of summer eating.
This fresh tomato sauce (and spaghetti) tastes of warm summer days. And nights.
Whether you love summer or winter, as long as you love a good pasta dish, this (easy!) one is worth trying. Even if it further teases you into feeling summer’s sun is coming soon when really the sun is reflecting off a four foot tall snowbank left at the curb by a plow.
There isn’t a recipe for this dish, so much as a loose method for preparing it.
- a couple of handfuls of small tomatoes – cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, etc. All red, or mixed colours, it doesn’t matter.
- olive oil
- garlic, though you can leave it out if you don’t have any
- Parmigiano or Romano cheese
- Salt. And pepper.
Drizzle a glug or two of olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat and add the tomatoes with a big pinch of salt and a clove of garlic, halved. Cook for five minutes, shaking the pan or stirring the tomatoes a couple of times.
The tomatoes will start to burst on their own; once they do, gently press each with a fork. You don’t want to mash this, just puncture the skins and release some seeds and sweet juices.
Add a few cracks of black pepper and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, now on a lower setting so the tomatoes are barely simmering, but are cooking down to a nice sauce. Add some more pepper and another drizzle of olive oil when you feel the sauce is ready.
I think its a pro move to strain the skins or even puree the lot – but I don’t bother. A little texture won’t hurt. And if you have a little pot of fresh basil in your kitchen this is the perfect time to use a few leaves.
When you cook the spaghetti, or other pasta, reserve a mugful of the cooking water; add a 1/2 cup of the water to the tomatoes before you stir everything together. Then another drizzle of olive oil. And lots of freshly grated cheese.
This is the sort of sauce that looks nice and bright and fresh. And tastes even more so.