Fresh Tomato and Basil Spaghetti with Ricotta Salata
August 3, 2011
If I told you I make this at least once a week through the summer months, would you think I was kidding? I kid you not. This to me is summer on a plate. My memories of garden fresh tomato salads simply dressed with basil, salt, pepper and olive oil and served with fresh baked Italian bread for mopping up the juices brought me to this simple pasta dish. I cannot imagine this any fresher tasting, unless I made the pasta myself.
I’ve seen many versions of this dish; Maris (In Good Taste) recently did a similar no cook pasta sauce, and I’ve seen cheeses ranging from feta to parmesan to mozzarella. I prefer to use ricotta salata as the taste is very gentle and mild and does not distract from the aromatic fresh tomatoes. Recently I have switched to corn spaghetti instead of semolina or wheat. The corn spaghetti works amazingly well as it layers another dimension of flavor to this dish. Think of a fresh tasting corn, tomato, scallion and basil salad!
When I find a variety of heirloom yellow, orange and red tomatoes, the dish really pops with flavor and color! I prefer to not remove the tomato seeds as I don’t mind the appearance of the seeds and I like to have as much juice as possible in this “sauce”. A truly light, great tasting olive oil also works best since the olive oil’s flavor is not heated or altered in any way. The tomatoes are only marinated for about an hour; just enough time for me to change out of my work clothes, play with my pups, pour a glass of wine and get the pot of water boiling for the pasta. In that one hour, the flavors marry, the salt brings out more juice, the basil remains bright and a perfect fresh sauce is ready.
The “recipe” should be prepared based on the quantity to serve as this is not a dish that stands up well for leftovers. Therefore, based on appetite and guests, roughly chop up the tomatoes (about 2 small, 1 cup per person), seeds and all, season with chopped fresh basil, thinly sliced scallion (white part and just a bit of green), minced garlic (optional for raw garlic lovers), Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Drizzle on great tasting light olive oil and allow to marry and marinate for at least one hour, but no longer than 2, at room temperature. Pour the marinated tomatoes over just cooked al dente corn spaghetti, sprinkle on crumbled ricotta salata, adjust to taste with a finishing of freshly ground pepper, sea salt and a light drizzle of olive oil!
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.