FRESH FROM THE GARDEN
Today's basket includes zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. We have been anticipating this moment, the moment when all the tomatoes begin to ripen at once! The basket of vegetables is whisked off to the kitchen where some of the most handsome tomatoes are arranged in a wire basket to become a still life.
Others, we determine, are to made into a sauce and yet others are to be used fresh in some fashion for dinner this evening.
Our garden contains several types of tomatoes including heirloom Red Brandywine and Yellow Brandywine. These are not the most attractive tomatoes but the flavor is superb both for fresh use and cooked. The San Marzano tomatoes are beginning to ripen and should be ready to harvest soon, then the sauce making really gets put into motion.
For dinner tonight tomatoes will be the star of a pasta dish we learned in Umbria . This dish 'Spaghetti Aldo" is named for the person we learned it from.....more on that later.
On to the stove goes a pot of water that we will bring to a boil.
To prepare the tomatoes for tonight's dinner first they must be plunged into the boiling water and after a few minutes rescued and refreshed in the bowl bowl of iced water.
This process will make it easy to remove the skin from the tomatoes without cooking them.
Remove core, skin and seeds from the cooled tomato.
So, now the tomatoes are ready to create 'Spaghetti Aldo'
We were staying, as we often do, in a small hill town in Umbria called Panicale. Central to activity here is Bar Gallo. At Bar Gallo a day can begin with espresso, a light lunch can be found in the afternoon, a prosecco before dinner and after dinner a 'long drink' or gelato to round out the day.
One rather hot day we were at Bar Gallo for a refreshment, and Aldo came to our table. Aldo is the charming and hospitable owner of Bar Gallo along with his wife, Daniella, whom all know is molto bella! We find a conversation with Aldo always leads us to a local and unexpected place for a great meal or an interesting place to sketch. Aldo speaks Italian and a bit of English, so this recipe is written in our best translation . Aldo begins his Italian monologue for this recipe for using fresh tomatoes with hand gestures that are choreographed to the cadence of his words. We listen carefully. Our Italian, at least mine, is survival Italian, travel, directions,marketing and eating, largely food based, we understood most of what he was telling us. The best part of his description however, were his gestures explaining the seeding and chopping of the
tomatoes, cheese and basil. One hand into the other he mimed perfectly the chopping motion," di,di,di....ze,ze, zeee".
It was mesmerizing!
We think of Aldo and Panicale every time we make this pasta.
Aldo at Bar Gallo
Recipe for 'Spaghetti Aldo'
serves 4-6 / serve at room temperature
1 pound spaghetti ( a good Italian type)
3 cups (more or less) skinned, seeded and chopped fresh ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
fresh basil (a good handful)
fresh mozzarella 8-10 oz.( bufula if available)
olive oil ( a good Italian, of course)
salt and fresh pepper
Freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1. Prepare the tomatoes ( as shown above), skin, core, seed, then chop.
Put the tomatoes into a bowl.
2. Remove skin from garlic, cut cloves in halves or quarters. Add the garlic to the tomatoes and stir in. (the garlic will be removed before serving)
3. Tear up a few of the basil leaves, the rest ( a larger amount) will be chopped and added later.
4. Add some salt, stir in the cover bowl. The tomatoes should sit for several hours, I find 2-5 hours works well.
5. At some point, after it has been resting for a time, about 2 hrs., drain some of the' tomato water' out of the bowl. Cover and let it continue to rest.
6. About 1/2 before serving fill a large pot with water and add an ample amount of salt, bring to a boil for the spaghetti.
7. once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente. ( save some pasta water )
8. In the meantime, chop the mozzarella. Finely dice the basil (rolling the leaves and cutting , then dicing works well).
9. Drain off any excess liquid from the tomatoes ( leaving a little). Remove the garlic pieces from the tomatoes.
10. To the tomatoes, drizzle olive oil, add mozzarella, basil, salt and pepper.
11. When the pasta is cooked then drain it ( remember to save a little pasta water, I often forget!)
12. Put the cooked pasta into a large decorative bowl or platter, add the tomato / cheese"sauce" mixture and gently stir, mixing it nicely with the pasta. Add additional olive oil or a bit of reserved pasta water as needed.
Grated parmesan or pecorino can be sprinkled on top.
Served as a primi (first) course it will serve 6. Serve as a light meal for 4 with some fresh bread and a good Italian wine.
In regards to serving Aldo told us,"non freddo, non caldo", which we translated to mean room temperature !
Fresh ingredients are the key to the flavor of this dish. Simple and delicious!
The people of Panicale are warm and welcoming. The landscape is breathtaking. Somehow the wine tastes different there. Imagine sitting on this terrace with a wine from Montefalco while sampling a local pecorino, that moment lasts forever in the memory bank. I go back to those moments often, delicious and lovely.