When I was in cooking school, I loved the days we were served pasta with tomato concasse, which simply was peeled and seeded tomatoes that had been cut into dice by the students struggling through the knife-skills class. The tomatoes were sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper and mixed with pasta for a quick side dish. It was an easy preparation that managed to eke out the best in tomatoes year-round.
In the winter, when the fresh tomatoes I can buy are mediocre, I use them to make a dish inspired by that concasse. I have tweaked the recipe a bit, punching up the flavor with garlic, lemon and fresh (hothouse) basil.
It’s a dish that has become a favorite of mine. If you’d like, it's also one that stands up to whole-grain pasta. One warning, though: Do not overcook the pasta.
- 8 ounces dried rotelli (corkscrew) pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
- 6 large (1 1/4 pounds) fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (see NOTE)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (2 teaspoons)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, loosely packed (about 8 to 10 large leaves)
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, but check it a few minutes before the suggested time to make sure the pasta is just al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a 10- to 12-inch shallow braising pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, reduce the heat to medium-low; add the garlic and cook for 8 minutes, adjusting the heat so the garlic softens but does not brown.
When the garlic is soft, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and the lemon zest. Increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tomato strips are soft but still intact. Add the drained pasta and the basil; taste, and add pepper as needed.
Serve warm. Pass Parmesan cheese at the table, if desired.
NOTE: To peel tomatoes, use a small, sharp knife to cut an X in the bottom of each one. Drop them into a large bowl of just-boiled water; let sit for a few minutes. You should see the peel start to curl where the X is. Transfer to a bowl of cold water or let cool, then discard the peel.
From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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