The year is sometime in the late 60’s, early 70’s…the place, my Dad’s Summer vegetable garden. This garden was special not only because it was Dad’s and we ate out of it until the first frost of the Fall, but because we didn’t own any of the property the garden was in. That’s right my father simply took over a large patch of land which was a drop down from the back of our garage in Staten Island, NYC, NY. To the left of the back of the garage was where the Wellington family lived and eventually, sometime in the 80’s, Mr. Wellington told my father he could use the whole backyard for more vegetable growing if he wanted to. Really? Yes, really, our section of Staten Island was more like Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show than much of the more built up and growing Staten Island. The area is called Travis, a mostly Polish enclave that was surrounded by the Arthur Kill, the Fresh Kills, and lots of farmland and swamps. I’m still scratching my head about what possessed Mr. Wellington to fork over his backyard for Dad’s numerous vegetable plantings but it doubled the size of Mom and Dad’s edible bounty during the Summer months. Read that as tomatoes from June through October. We grew up living Farm to Table..nothing new about that trendy concept, sorry Hipsters you did NOT discover that lifestyle.
While the garden and Mom and Dad are no longer with us my memories of what Mom did with those beautiful and sometimes really nasty looking vegetables will never leave me. One tomato preparation was called “SALSA CRUDA” which translated from the Italian simply means RAW SAUCE. What has become a common topping for BRUSCHETTA is a form of SALSA CRUDA, basically just chopped garden fresh tomatoes mixed with good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil and garlic or onion to taste. The mix is left to sit at room temperature until all the flavors meld and then it’s tossed with hot drained pasta of your choice and lots of PECORINO ROMANO and BLACK PEPPER. What a legacy of flavor, love and tradition they left me and my sisters. This is one of my favorite Summer treats, especially with locally or homegrown tomatoes and my favorites for this are CHERRY TOMATOES, known as POMODORINI. Southern Italian cuisine makes much use of this tomato type, it’s not only San Marzano and Plums that get used. The tomatoes shown in the picture were heirloom (even better but not required) cherry tomatoes grown within 5 miles of my home at the Jersey Shore. Local and fresh=REAL good flavor. Don’t panic, good in season Cherry or Grape Tomatoes will work deliciously.
FOR 4 -5 PEOPLE TIME: 2 HOURS
1 1/2 lbs. chopped CHERRY or GRAPE TOMATOES
1 small SHALLOT finely minced
1 clove of GARLIC, finely minced
3 tbs. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
6 fresh BASIL LEAVES
Fresh ground BLACK PEPPER
1 lb. PASTA (i like TAGLIATELLE) cooked AL DENTE according to package directions
1/4 cup freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO
Let’s cook! Rinse the tomatoes, pat dry with paper towels and slice in halves placing them in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, the shallot and garlic and chop 2 of the basil leaves and gently blend.
Taste for seasoning and let this sit for 2 hours. When you are ready to eat, cook the pasta according to the package directions just till AL DENTE! Drain and drizzle the pasta with a little Extra Virgin Olive oil, then add the cheese and toss together. Now add the tomatoes and toss gently again. Top with basil leaves and more grated pecorino and black pepper. Serve!
It’s a fantastic explosion of the best of the Summer’s tomatoes in your mouth and really easy.