Servings: 6 as a starter; 4 as a light main course
- 2 pounds 3 ounces fabulous tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Maldon or other sea salt
- Black pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound spaghettini
Blanch the tomatoes by putting them in a large bowl, pouring over boiling water from a kettle to cover, and letting them sit for a few minutes. Drain them, peel them (the blanching makes this easy: just cut with the tip of a knife and the skins will come off easily) then halve them and scoop out the seeds. Cut out the cores (this is probably easier once you’ve quartered them) then chop them; I use my mezzaluna for this, though an ordinary sharp knife would do just fine. Scoop them up, put them in a bowl, stir in the sugar and sprinkle with sea salt and grind in some pepper. Lean on the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife to bruise it and peel off the skin and add the smashed clove to the tomatoes in the bowl along with the oil. Stir together brutally with a fork-though I tend to use my immersion blender (like a small whisk made of a beard-shaped coil of wire) for this; I want to beat this into more of a sauce-and cover with plastic wrap and leave, out of the refrigerator, for at least half an hour and up to 8 hours.
Cook pasta according to the package instructions and once drained, pick out he garlic clove from the tomatoes in the bowl and throw away, tossing the soused tomatoes into the hot spaghettini. I don’t like grated Parmesan with this, but I often make it with a ball of buffalo mozzarella, diced and stirred into the tomato sauce a minute before combining sauce and pasta. When I’m in Tuscany, I like to use instead a handful of diced pecorino toscano, which is softer, crumblier and sweeter and with a creamier tang than the hard, sharp pecorino Romano used for usual gratin. This is also wonderful, and helps with less fulsomely tomatoey tomatoes, when you add the juice of half a lemon to he tomatoes in the bowl and grate over the zest of a lemon as you toss the pasta in the sauce at the end. Needless to say — I’d presume — any of these variants taste wonderful with a handful of basil leaves, shredded or torn up at the last minute (otherwise they’ll start to blacken), some tossed thought the sauce before it goes onto the pasta, and some scattered over the pasta afterwards.