The farmer's market this last weekend brought us beautiful tomatoes. I asked which of the many red types (no yellow, green or purple yet) the seller preferred herself and she sold me three overflowing pints of Fourth of July varietals.
Fourth of Julys are sweet and juicy and just about the size of a golf ball. If they have a flaw, it's that the skin is tougher than would seem absolutely necessary. That didn't stop me from eating them like fruit.
I would pass by the bowl, pick up a tomato, and pop it into my mouth without salt or pepper or peeling. Delicious. But I had far too many to simply graze on them.
The best use I could come up with for these lovelies is a cold sauce. Yes, I could have roasted and blended these red delights, but that would be like harnessing a two year old thoroughbred horse to a wagon. It would work certainly, but what a waste!
This is a sauce that is more like a relish that is warmed by the heat of the pasta beneath it. The cheese is cut to small pieces so it will soften and perhaps even melt with little more than residual warmth.
Use fresh mozarella, fresh basil, and your best olive oil for this dish. The flavors are simple and not buried, so the quality of the ingredients will shine. I wouldn't even think of trying this sauce with flavorless supermarket tomatoes.
Pasta with Cold Sauce
24-30 Fourth of July tomatoes or an equivalent volume of flavorful cherry tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
6 oz fresh mozarella, cubed very small (about 1/4" per side)
2-4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves (about 20 leaves)
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamis vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
12 oz. dried shaped pasta such as rigatoni, ziti, farfalle, etc...
I don't recommend a linear pasta like spaghetti or linguine for this dish. It works far better with a shaped noodle.
Put on a big bowl of water to boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of salt or a light handful to the water.
Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into quarters along the axis. If you have a larger tomato, you may cut it in half trans-axis first. Place in a large bowl.
Roll the basil leaves up in a cigar shape and slice thinly into a chiffonade. Add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add also the oil and cubed mozarella. Add the splash of vinegar, mix well and taste for seasoning.
Add oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste, then add the garlic and mix well.
When the pot has boiled, add pasta. Cook until al dente - about 7 minutes.
Take a scoop of water out of the pasta water for each diner's bowl and warm the bowl with it while you drain the pasta. Once the pasta is drained thoroughly, empty the diner's bowls of water and dish up the pasta. Using a slotted spoon, immediately top with the cold sauce and give one stir to mix the sauce in lightly.
As the sauce rises to the temperature of the hot pasta, the tomatoes and basil will release their scent, and the mozarella with get soft and eventually gooey.
Serve with red wine and a sigh.