Utilize your garden bounty to make fresh tomato sauce for a homestyle Italian pasta caprese, plus tips on making tomato powder for your spice pantry.
Fresh Tomato Pasta Caprese
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
My recipe of the day is for a fresh tomato pasta caprese, which utilizes the best of your garden bounty (that is, fresh garden tomatoes and fresh sweet basil).
One of the things that is unfortunate if you don’t take measures when cooking with tomatoes (and peeling those) is the skins, which will either be flaked off during the cooking process for an unsightly mess or be ground into little visible bits, both of which are unappealing in pasta.
Fortunately, there is an easy way around it.
Did you know that if you cut tomatoes in half, and rub them cut side down over a box grater, you can catch a very tasty fresh tomato sauce? And the best part is that you can grate away all the pulp and leave the flesh.
But why stop there?
But don’t be in a rush to simply throw those tomato skins away. Place them on a mesh rack, wet side up, in a dehydrator or low oven (80F-120F: as low as you can) and dry those.
Once dried put them into a spice mill and buzz them up. Put the powder through a fine mesh strainer to catch the naughty bits (and put those through the mill again).
And what you will end up with is spice magic (and you can buy this stuff from the spice guy at an exorbitant price, but why would you?)
But what do you do with it exactly?
I swear to you on my cooks honor, that this can be your secret weapon in all sorts of things, from meat rubs to roasting sprinkles, to stirring into a dip. Wherever you wished you could have that nice tomato flavor without all the chunky tomato wetness.
Okay, secret tips accomplished.
You’ll come back to the recipe with me now, k? I know your mind is still on all the wondrous things you’ll be doing with the dried tomato powder, but lots of time for that later, right?
Fresh Tomato Sauce
The pulp you got from the gratings will be added to the heat, but we are not going to be cooking it- just warming it up to a nice eating temperature.
There will also be fresh bocconcini mozzarella pearls added and fresh basil leaves, but we don’t really want to cook those either. We want fresh taste, right? So let’s do it!
I used a nice imported pasta in this which is basically glorified scroodles. They called it fusillata casareccia. But come on. It’s not that snobby- I saw another package of similar pasta for about quadruple the price: strozzapreti was its name.
But damn they certainly are pretty. Honestly, you can use anything you want in this- even the cheapest American rotini. So it’s not about being high brow or low brow with the pasta.
You just want to be on your toes with the sauce and no one is going to notice where your pasta was made, to be honest. In America we can stick any noodle in our hat and call it macaroni. It’s the American way.
Not a Cincinnati 5-Way (That’s a Story for Another Day) but I digress.
Mmm. Chili spaghetti.
Calm down, Texan friends! 😉
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Fresh Tomato Pasta Caprese
- 2 cups grated fresh tomato pulp
- 16 ounces pasta cooked al dente (I used fusillata casareccia, which I think means Roman fusilli/corkscrews)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon nonpareil capers the small ones
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish if desired
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves torn
- 2 cups halved fresh cherry tomatoes
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
- Grate fresh tomatoes (cut in half), flesh side down on a grater placed over a bowl to catch the sauce; reserve remaining tomato skins for tomato powder.
- Cook your pasta al dente (to the tooth) according to your package directions, drain.
- Heat oil in the emptied pasta pot with the garlic, nonpareil small capers, tomato paste, salt and pepper.
- Toss the pasta with this mix in the pot to coat.
- Add the fresh tomato sauce and heat until just warm to taste.
- Remove pasta from heat and add the Parmesan, basil leaves, cherry tomatoes and mozz pearls. These do not cook at all, except from residual heat.
- Sprinkle with a little more Parm before serving if you want. I also do pepper flakes on mine, but that is not shown.