Much as I tout eating food produced locally, I admit to having a very long way to go before I can reasonably call myself a locavore (the Oxford American Dictionary‘s Word of the Year!) One small step I’ve taken in recent years is to cut out or at least minimize the number of fresh tomatoes I buy at the grocery store, especially when tomatoes are out of season. It’s usually not that hard, because, really–grocery-store off-season tomatoes don’t exactly pack a taste sensation. They’re usually not worth the effort.
I slipped up the other day, though, when I was itching for one of my favorite recipes that calls for cherry tomatoes. Bad choice. The tomatoes I bought tasted horrible, nothing remotely close to the beauties that came from the garden last summer. Lesson learned.
The experience has gotten me looking foward all the more to the coming summer…and the chance to mix up this recipe (not the one I used the other day) again, one I tried last summer and has quickly become a favorite. It’s a great no-cook pasta sauce using fresh produce.
from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian
Makes about 3 cups, serves 4 over a pound of pasta as a main course
1 12-ounce bag of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 1-ounce piece of Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces fresh mozarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, Parmesan, basil, and oil just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree). Transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Stir in the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce immediately with your choice of freshly cooked pasta.
If I take up the Eat Local Challenge this summer, I can add Checca Sauce over pasta to a list of meals that I can cook almost entirely from local ingredients (except for the Parmesan, olive oil, and seasonings). Evidently, homemade mozzarella is completely within the realm of the possible. And with my hand-crank pasta machine, I can make my own pasta, which only requires eggs and flour. (Local eggs are easy to come by. Flour? Hmmm, might need a little help with that.) And the difference between handmade and store-bought pasta is as huge as the difference between garden-grown and store-bought January tomatoes. Incomparable.