"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Use the Tomatoes: Pasta Fresca Off the Cuff

by Julie on August 10, 2011

in Minor Miracles, Dinner, Vegetarian

pasta fresca

a nice photo stolen off the internets

Our local urban farming maven sent out the call over Facebook: Come and pick us clean on Sunday. We’re plowing under the field to plant anew. Everything must go: tomatoes, onions, eggplants, corn, peppers and MORE!

So early Sunday morning I rose, got my coffee and headed out to the fields. Fresh veg? Love it. FREE fresh veg? Even better.

So what if deep in the back of my mind I knew I was likely to let the whole lot go bad in a bag on my kitchen table. I always start out with good intentions.

It was overcast. Not too cold. But chilly enough for a hoodie. Also quiet and serene. I wandered the rows plucking what remained of the tomatoes, finding one or two every other plant hidden far underneath the leaves. I wish now I’d gone ahead and taken a photo of the row in front of me, strewn with drying tomatoes in red and orange and yellow, but I got annoyed at myself for the impulse to document my every action for social media. Eff it, It thought. Let me just do this and not document it.

I didn’t plan on blogging about it, but the pasta fresca I made tonight using all those tomatoes came out so nicely, what the heck.

I riffed on this recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home book (page 184)

4 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
6-8 large fresh basil leaves
1 or 2 large garlic clove(s) minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
one pound butterfly or fusilli pasta
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes ( didn’t have this, didn’t use, woulda been really yummy tho.)
grated Parmesan cheese

Set aside one cup of the tomatoes and a few basil leaves. Puree the rest in a a blender or food processor with the garlic and olive oil until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

cook your pasta. Drain it, toss it immediately with the mozzarella cubes if you’ve got them, then throw it back into the pot and add the tomato puree. Mix well. The heat of the pasta will heat up the tomatoes.

Put into your festive pasta bowls. Top with the remaining tomatoes and basil. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

And maybe your kids will make you open a can of olives too. They will eat all with gusto, and they will make you feel virtuous because you didn’t let a bag of free tomatoes go over, after all.

Yay you!

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I try to make pesto with my own basil…

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Yannello August 10, 2011 at 4:39 am

Yay, Julie! Just in time to take advantage of our bumper crop of tomatoes!!! One of my fav. dishes, to boot! Thanks!! 🙂


sarah gilbert August 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

This sounds delicious. I’m so proud of you for using your free tomatoes. For the record, that cubed fresh mozzarella is fantastic with pasta like this, but in my experience it’s even better if your sauce is somewhere in the middle between hot and room temperature. It melts the mozzarella just enough — like the insides of mozzarella sticks, but better of course, because Sysco didn’t have any hand in its creation.

Another cookbook I have suggests smoked mozzarella, which Trader Joe’s sells now. Let me tell you, this will knock all your socks.


alice August 11, 2011 at 11:27 am

A couple of nights ago, I made that stuffed tomato with panko crumb recipe you posted a while back and it was so so delicious. Tomatoes are the best!


Bad home cook August 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

OMG those roasted tomatoes…aren’t those the best? T’is the season, too…nom…thanks for reminding me of those…guess it’s another reason to buy more toms at the farmer’s market today….


V. Kahler-Anderson, aka HomeRearedChef September 9, 2011 at 9:01 am

Home-grown tomatoes are incredible. And I make sure to faithfully feed mine with Miracle-Gro’s tomato fertilizer. We’ve enjoyed lots of tomatoes this summer, and soon we will have loads of them. I like your idea to use the tomatoes without cooking them in the usual way. Thank you for the great idea!



Jamie September 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Where do I find this urban farming maven? Or at least her crop? My neighbor’s excessively stingy with her tomatoes.


Desi September 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I bookmarked this! My son would live on fresh tomatoes, if we let him, and I love fresh basil and garlic. Can’t wait to make it!


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