Meatless Monday: A Simple, Fresh, Piquant Summer Pasta Dish
Few things in life are more pleasurable than eating a sun-warmed homegrown tomato within seconds of picking it. So when I harvest tomatoes and herbs from my garden for a dish I’ll be making, I always indulge in some sweet cherry tomatoes while I’m at it.
A close runner-up to eating tomatoes while you’re still in the garden is making a dish that uses fresh tomatoes that were picked within the last hour. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I feel that there’s a bit of extra prana in just-picked veggies and herbs. The pasta dish I made last evening was perhaps made lively not just because of the mix of ingredients, but because the tomatoes and herbs were about as fresh as they could be without still being attached to the plant.
This pasta dish from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison has become one of my summer staples, precisely because the basically raw tomatoes are at their freshest and sweetest. Also, it’s a great dish for showing off multicolored varieties. For last evening’s version I used Tigerella (red), Black from Tula (black), Cherokee Purple (purple), Moonglow (orange) and Green Zebra (green) tomatoes. I also used Opal (purple) Basil for the color contrast.
Because it is a pasta dish, the version I made last evening was not gluten free. If your diet is gluten free, however, your pasta options are better than ever these days with lots more choices than there were even a few years ago. Here are a few brands you may be able to find in your local natural foods store: bionature, Tinkyada and Earthly Choice.
Penne with Tomatoes, Olives, Lemon and Basil
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (1 or more varieties; make it colorful if you can)
3 tablespoons finely diced shallot or onion
3 tablespoons torn basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
20 Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped (kalamatas also work for this recipe)
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pinches red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly milled pepper
8 ounces penne or conchiglie or rigatoni
The tomatoes cook only slightly when you add the hot pasta to them. This leaves them fresh and aromatic. Peeling is optional. The recipe below includes instructions for peeling, but I have never done it. I want the tomatoes to be as fresh and lively as possible. And in the spirit of satya (truthfulness), I’ll admit that I really don’t enjoy peeling tomatoes.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Plunge in the tomatoes for 10 seconds. Then peel, halve, gently squeeze out the seeds, and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine the tomatoes in a large bowl with the shallot, basil, parsley, olives, lemon zest, garlic, pepper flakes and oil. The sauce can sit for an hour before you use it.
Add salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add it to the tomatoes. Toss gently with a wide rubber scraper. Divide among pasta dishes and season with pepper. Serves 2 to 4.