Cooking in China has its limitations. Sometimes you don’t have a can of tomato sauce in the pantry, or even a can of diced tomatoes. And you can’t run to the grocery store to get one, because the nearest store that sells tomato sauce is an hour away. I have such a hard life.
But don’t worry! Camilla is here to save the day with her amazing, creative, and dexterous cooking resources – tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes! A revelation!
Okay, excuse my hyperbole. But honestly, until I lived in China, I didn’t discover the beauty that is a simple fresh tomato sauce, where the flavors of the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and fresh basil shine through in all their glory. Such elegant simplicity. Such fresh flavor!
Sometimes we don’t appreciate the simple things of life until life strips away our modern (in)conveniences and forces us to enjoy pasta sauce made with fresh tomatoes.
Here we go…
The above photo is one of the few photographs on the site taken by me (the rest are by Chris). I’m inordinately proud of it. It was a total fluke, but I think it turned out well, don’t you?
Simplest Fresh Tomato Sauce
½ pound spaghetti
1 ½ pounds fresh ripe round tomatoes, or about 6 or 7 Roma tomatoes, washed
3 tbsp olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
Fresh basil leaves, to taste, chopped
Step 1: Peel the tomatoes and prepare pasta
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Score a shallow “X” in the bottom of each tomato. When water is boiling, blanch the tomatoes for 20 seconds and remove from the water.
Use the boiling water to prepare the spaghetti according to package directions. Remember to salt the water – if you don’t add enough salt, the spaghetti will taste inadequately seasoned, no matter how salty the sauce is. How much salt you add will depend on how much water you’re using. More water will prevent sticking. Drain the pasta when it is done, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.
When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel each tomato by pulling the skin off where you scored the X. The skin should come off easily. Chop the tomatoes roughly.
Step 2: Make the sauce
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a non-reactive skillet. Add the minced garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until garlic is softened and pale golden (do not let it brown). Add the chopped tomatoes, and stir to coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes disintegrate and release their juice. Uncover, add teaspoon sugar, and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened slightly. Add tomato paste, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in chopped fresh basil leaves.
Add drained pasta directly to skillet and toss with sauce. If sauce is dry, add a splash of reserved pasta water to moisten.
You can serve this with grated Parmesan, but I love the fresh and simple flavors all on their own, with a glass of dry white wine. Umm! I could eat like this every day.