September 24, 1997 in Food

Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes Make Delicious Pasta Sauces

Mary Carroll Los Angeles Times Service
 
Tags:recipe

Raw sauces, using fresh herbs, olive oil, bitter and sweet greens and the ripest tomatoes, heat up in seconds when tossed with hot pasta. Their fresh and pungent flavor wakes up the palate.

In Italy, some cooks peel, seed or salt the tomatoes to enhance flavor, but this seems like unnecessary activity; I just chop everything or pulse it in the food processor. The skins add texture and good fiber to the sauce, while the seeds provide moisture and reduce the amount of olive oil needed.

If your tomatoes are less than perfectly ripe and juicy, try salting them lightly, then letting them drain in a colander for 15 minutes before mixing the sauce, or augment their flavor with a pinch of sugar.

Most no-cook sauces benefit from standing at room temperature for 30 minutes to three hours before using; stir them occasionally to allow the flavors to marry. Like ripe tomatoes, no-cook tomato sauces will also lose much of their flavor if refrigerated.

As you experiment with these basic recipes, you’ll notice a difference in flavor with each sauce; individual ripeness and type of tomato add a unique twist every time I make one of these recipes. Adjust the seasonings to match the flavors you encounter, since fresh tomato toppings follow the old Sicilian saying, “He’s always changing, just like a sauce.”

Tomato-Lemon Sauce

A little lemon juice brings out the flavor in beefsteak tomatoes. This basic sauce can be dressed up with grated Parmesan cheese.

1 pound beefsteak tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Salt, freshly ground pepper

4 cups hot cooked pasta

Briefly puree tomatoes in food processor or blender. Transfer to bowl and stir in oil, lemon juice, vinegar, parsley, chives and basil. Allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Stir well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with hot cooked pasta.

Yield: 4 servings.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Tomato Puree

Roasted red bell peppers are easy to find in most supermarkets and add depth to this sauce.

3/4 cup roasted jarred red bell peppers, drained

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 pound tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar or honey, optional

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt, freshly ground pepper

4 cups hot cooked pasta

Finely chop peppers and garlic in food processor or blender. Add tomatoes and pulse briefly into a coarse puree. Add sugar and oil. Allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with hot cooked pasta.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tomato and Green Olive Sauce

This delicious recipe comes from food writer Jack Bishop. To keep the recipe low in fat, I’ve reduced the amount of olives.

1-1/2 pounds tomatoes

7 large green olives, pitted

1 medium shallot

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, freshly ground pepper

4 cups hot cooked linguine

Core and coarsely chop tomatoes. Place in large bowl. Set aside.

Finely chop olives, shallot and thyme in food processor or blender. Scrape down sides. With motor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth.

Toss olive paste with tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with hot cooked pasta.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tomato and Greens Sauce With Two Cheeses

Raw greens, like spinach and arugula, wilt instantly when tossed with hot pasta in this simple sauce.

1 pound fresh spinach leaves

1 cup (packed) fresh arugula

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 pound beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely chopped

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 cups hot cooked pasta

Coarsely chop spinach, arugula, parsley, basil and garlic in food processor or blender. Add Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and pulse until pastelike. Transfer to bowl.

Stir in oil and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with hot cooked pasta.

Yield: 4 servings.

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