August 3, 2007

An excellent summer dinner (and leftovers)

It's August, which basically means two things in Virginia: 1. It's muggy, not unlike living inside a rice cooker. And 2. All those tomato plants are bursting with fresh deliciousness. So, what seemed like a great idea back in April, ("Sure, let's plant 6 tomato plants! We'll make pasta sauce, and live off tomatoes for the whole year!!!"), is suddenly an overwhelming prospect. The kitchen counters are no longer visible beneath the luscious red. And of course, the very last thing anyone wants to do in the muggy rice cooker heat is stand over a pot of proper Italian pasta sauce.

So, I was so excited when I ran across a pasta recipe in last Sunday's New York Times that didn't require cooking and takes advantage of all the wonderful summery goodness of fresh tomatoes. Basically, it is caprese left to meld all day (ah, no real work apart from chopping), then tossed with freshly cooked penne when it's dinnertime. With a bottle of Chianti- mmmm! (Kiss fingertips, throw them in air with a flourish.)

I'd make a few minor modifications to the recipe from the NYT. First, summer really calls for light dinners. The penne is a bit large- I'd prefer a higher tomato content. I'd recommend a smaller, thinner pasta instead. Perhaps a small penne or even a spiral instead. The delicious juicy sauce would still cling, but there would be less pasta.

Secondly, I'd definitely recommend adding some garlic to the basil-olive oil infusion. It's not strictly necessary, but what Italian dish isn't improved by garlic?

Finally, I'd recommend stirring the mozzarella and the pasta together in the strainer, then adding them in with the tomato mixture. Otherwise, the mozzarella melts and instead of melty chunks of cheese interspersed with pasta, you basically get gigantic globs o' cheese. This is delicious, but a bit unbalanced. :)

Happy tomato eating!

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