Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Making the most of summer - one tomato and basil leaf at a time

Can we talk about tomatoes and basil for a moment? As someone who appreciates local and seasonal produce, there's only a brief window where I can get ripe, juicy tomatoes, fresh, fragrant basil, and that window's open now. If I don't get my fix now, it'll close before I know it and I'll have to wait till next year. And that thought is enough to automatically veer my eyes towards the red, yellow, green and black! tomatoes every time I'm at the market and to make my hands grasp for the fragrant and tender ones (and also continue to buy basil plants in the hopes that one day I will not have to leave home for a week only to come back to a sad, sad sight - but I digress).

So, before you go all "not another pasta dish" on me, let me explain. More than a pasta dish, this is simply an expression of my like, love, obsession for tomatoes and basil this time of year.  Maybe it's the Italian in me talking, but I do believe there are few things more satisfying than the combination of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Be it in sandwiches as a quick lunch, or as a simple caprese in the late afternoon, or in a delicate pasta on a warm summer evening. Each bite just makes me fall in love with the combination all over again and so while this might not sound exciting, I can assure you the flavors are*. 

My point is: it doesn't matter what you decide to make - a pasta with oven-roasted tomatoes, shredded basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella?, or with pesto and quartered cherry tomatoes? or tomato and basil bruschette? - just make it. Because the flavors will never taste as good as they do now, and everyone - not just me - should be taking advantage of that! 

*Proof: Yesterday, at 11pm I got up, went to the fridge, took out the bowl of left-over pasta, decided it tasted even better cold and finished it off, standing. For a person who never eats anything after dinner and has great big issues about eating food when standing, this was quite a feat. And proof enough that this dish needs to be shared.

Pasta with slow roasted tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella
Slow roasted tomatoes are wonderful. In addition to using them in pastas, you could also use them in sandwiches, with roasted fish, in salads etc.

Serves 4


About 500g // 1lb of ripe, juicy vine tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of natural brown sugar
Fresh thyme
250g of buffalo mozzarella
30g // 1 oz of freshly grated Parmesan
Extra-virgin olive oil (I'd say I used about a scant 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup of fresh basil, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
500g of short pasta (I used Casarecce)


Halve tomatoes and place, cut side up, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar and thyme. Roast at 176°C // 350°F on a tray positioned in the middle for 50 minutes. Then turn on broiler and position tray under it. Keeping a close eye, continue roasting until the tomatoes are soft and slightly browned. This should only take a few minutes. (Alternatively, speed this up by immediately placing tomatoes under broiler and watching them closely!) Remove from oven, coarsely chop, then add them to a large serving bowl together with the mozzarella and parmesan. 

15 minutes before the tomatoes are ready, prepare the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta till al dente. Drain, then add to the bowl of tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan. Add the olive oil, shredded basil and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Bruschette with tomatoes and basil
from trial and error

Bruschette with tomatoes and basil are probably the most popular type of bruschetta, and you can find them on nearly every Italian menu (outside of Italy). And even though they essentially only involve three main ingredients, more often than not they disappoint. Either because they are served in the dead of winter and can't possibly be as juicy and fresh as they should, or because the bread is soggy or the bread/tomato ratio is off or... Well, for whatever the reason, I'd rather not risk paying £9 to be disappointed, when I've got a recipe for how I believe they should taste, that makes the perfect lunch/light dinner/appetizer every single time. 

The key to a good bruschetta are ripe, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and a good quality loaf of sourdough natural yeast bread.

Makes 8 to 10 bruschette 


725g // 1 2/3lbs medium, ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1cm // 1/2 inch dice 
About 15g // 1/3 cup shredded basil leaves
Salt and ground pepper

1 loaf of sourdough natural yeast bread, cut crosswise into 2.5 cm // 1-inch-thick slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved


Mix the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Set oven to broiler function and position rack to about 4 inches away from the heating element. Broil the bread sliced until golden brown on both sides, then brush each side of each slice with olive oil and rub with garlic clove. 

Using a fork/slotted spoon, divide the tomato mixture evenly among the slices. Serve immediately.


1 comment:

Daniel said...

This was sooooooo goooood!!

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