Tag Archives: fresh tomato sauce

Pasta with corn, tomato & cheese

17 Sep

My friend Peter is what you might call “an acquired taste.”

He is brash, opinionated, often insulting to those who cross his path. I have never met a person with less skill in editing their own words. Which is saying something considering the place I am from.

This is one of the reasons the man is my friend. I never have to wonder where Peter stands on any issue. He is, without apology, who he is. I admire and respect that.

It also doesn’t hurt that he can grow vegetables better than anybody that I know. With few exceptions, virtually every seedling that I plant in the spring has its beginning in Peter’s greenhouses in the dead of winter. On the property around these greenhouses you’ll find fruit trees of all types, as well as a large field where Peter and his wife Claudia grow potatoes, tomatoes and, of particular interest to us here, sweet corn.

A couple weeks back Peter texted saying that the corn in his field was ready to be picked.

“Come over today or tomorrow and take as much as you want,” he wrote.

Before I could answer Peter was back with the kind of snarky blather that is more his custom.

“Oh, and grab a few ears for your girlfriend Marc while you’re at it.”

See what I mean.

Now, Marc is a regular companion of mine, I’ll admit, but he certainly is not my girlfriend.

He isn’t even a girl. I checked with his wife Beth just yesterday to be sure.

Nonetheless, my mission was to score a couple dozen ears of corn and so the next day my girlfriend and I were trudging through Peter’s corn field stocking up.

Which is how this pretty swell concoction of pasta, tomato, corn and ricotta salata came to be.

We start out, as we do with so many good things, sauteeing some garlic (three or four cloves) and a little hot pepper in a good bit of olive oil.

Once the garlic has softened (but not browned) toss in your tomatoes. We’ve got around three cups’ worth of fresh garden tomatoes here.

The basil plants have been growing wild this year. I figured a handful of them wouldn’t hurt.

You can skip this step if you like. For some reason, probably because I am incapable of thinking about corn without thinking about butter, I found myself adding half a stick just for the hell of it.

You’ll need to give it a taste, of course, but after around 15 or 20 minutes of medium-to-high heat the tomatoes are likely to have turned into a respectable sauce. At which point you can add the corn (around two cups here, blanched and cut from the cob) and lower the heat to a slow simmer.

After the corn has warmed a bit (maybe a minute or two) add a half pound of ricotta salata, cut into small pieces.

Then immediately add your pasta and incorporate.

I blanched and froze a bunch of corn and will try this with canned tomatoes in the dead of winter, when Peter is in his greenhouses getting a jump on spring.

Roasted tomato sauce II

2 Sep

This summer has been all about the roasted tomato sauce. So far I have cooked and frozen around 20 quarts, and the season isn’t over yet.

The whole roasting idea started for me back in the fall of 2011, when my friend Joe sent me his wife Joel’s recipe for roasted green tomato sauce. My garden was inundated with unripe tomatoes that year and Joe was trying to help me to make use of them all.

Since then I have adapted Joel’s basic method to roast all combinations of tomatoes, often fully ripe ones. Every batch is a little different, but all are rich in flavor and delicious. You can see by the picture above that I’ve been using mostly ripe tomatoes this year, but the beauty of roasting is that it doesn’t really matter which ones you use. Any combination of tomatoes that you can get your hands on, at practically any time of year, will work. Best of all, roasting a large batch of fresh sauce at high heat is faster and easier than simmering on a stovetop.

This batch is a pretty big one (I had to use a giant 13.5-quart dutch oven to fit all the garden tomatoes I had on hand), and so you’ll need to make adjustments to cooking times and ingredients depending on how much sauce you’re actually making. But don’t worry. Play around and experiment as much as you want, because it’s really pretty hard to screw up a roasted sauce.

Just core the tops off all of your tomatoes.

Slice off the bottoms too.

Then cut the tomatoes into pieces like this. (I don’t peel the skins, if you were wondering, nor do I clean out the seeds.)

In a dutch oven saute some chopped garlic, onion, carrots, celery, hot pepper if you like, plus plenty of fresh herbs. I used rosemary, oregano, thyme and marjoram for this batch. Don’t be shy with the olive oil; the more of it the better as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and I’m not shy with the garlic either; there are around 10 cloves in here. (There are also four carrots, four celery stalks and a huge red onion, but as I said, play around and adjust at will.)

I’ve been making sauce both with and without different types of meats this summer. In this batch I added two pounds of ground pork after the vegetables and herbs had softened, then let the pork brown a bit before moving on to the next step. (You can use beef or veal instead of pork; or, for a plain tomato sauce, just skip the meat altogether.)

Next step is to add in the tomatoes, stir it all up, cover and toss into an oven that’s been preheated to 450 degrees F.

At this point the amount of sauce you’re making will determine the cooking time. This batch of tomatoes nearly filled my 13.5-quart dutch oven, and so I waited a full hour before removing the cover for the remaining time it took the sauce to cook.

About an hour and a half later (2 1/2 hours total cooking time) the sauce was done.

Once it had cooled I doled it out into sturdy plastic containers for freezing.

As I said, I’m at 20 frozen quarts and counting at the moment, and I’m betting that I’ll wind up with a dozen more. Which is to say that, should you find yourself in my nabe at any point during the coming Maine winter, give a knock on the door. Who knows, I may be in a generous mood.

Just bring along something red of your own to go with. If you catch my drift.

Fresh Arrabbiata sauce

20 Aug

It’s August. I’ve got 20 tomato plants working. What did you expect me to be cooking?

A quick pasta sauce made with fresh, ripe tomatoes from the garden is a hard thing to top. Last year I posted a 7-minute sauce, which is about the simplest I know. A spicy Arrabbiata only requires a little more effort.

I use pancetta for Arrabbiata. This is about a quarter pound of my homemade pancetta, cut into thick cubes. And this recipe is for a half pound of pasta, which should be good for two people. (If you are a member of my family please disregard this last comment and eat however the hell much you want.)

First step is to fry the pancetta at fairly low heat, but don’t let it get too crispy. When done remove the meat from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

This small onion is also from the garden, as is the chopped hot pepper. Saute them together, at medium heat, in the pancetta fat, and also a good glob of olive oil.

Once the onions are nice and soft add the pancetta back into the pan and incorporate.

These are three medium-size tomatoes, and they’re at about peak ripeness.

Chop them up and add them to the pan with the pancetta, onion and pepper, then turn up the heat to high.

In about 10 minutes the sauce will be ready to go.

Add your cooked pasta to the sauce and incorporate, then lower the heat and sprinkle in around half a cup or more of grated Pecorino cheese. Stir it all together and serve.

I could eat this way for the rest of the month.

And probably will.