I returned Monday night from a long weekend in Maine with my family; while there, I met my 7-week old niece for the first time and spent the weekend astonished at how easily my family has gone from A Family to A Family with an Infant. While my sister and her husband get 95% of the credit, I was fascinated to see how my parents and brothers have adjusted, too. My father was first in line to wear her in the Boba carrier, my mother has already written songs in her honor and my brothers hold her for hours at a time without complaint. It was quite a weekend. In addition to Baby Stuff, we squeezed in a trip to an apple orchard, my first apple-picking trip in more than a decade, and spent an evening making my Nana’s famous donuts, with Mom and Aunt E schooling my brother and I on the history, the stories and the proper technique. I had lunch with some dear friends; over delicious Italian almond and lemon cake (which reminds me to beg for some recipes…), we laughed about the good ol’ days and talked about preparations for the little guy who will be making his way into their family any day now. I got to see aunts and uncles for a bean supper and made Apple Pie Jam for everyone to try. I returned home exhausted and happy.
Before leaving, I scurried to clean the fridge so I wouldn’t lose any fresh food: beans, roasted peppers and fruit went into the freezer, pickles were made with lemon cucumbers and Asian pears, and meals for two days beforehand consisted of kitchen sink-style scrambles or stir-fry. My husband promised to eat the corn, peaches and berries before they went bad, and he did. In fact, he did such a great job that I came home to 2 onions, 4 potatoes, a sweet potato and a few pounds of cherry tomatoes as the only un-preserved produce in our house, shocking in the month of September. Partially because of a lack of other options, but mostly because it is really tasty, I seized the chance to make my favorite cherry tomato sauce for dinner.
You can use any variety of cherry tomatoes for this sauce, so long as they are flavorful. A combination of colors is aesthetically pleasing, but not necessary for success. This sauce is so nice for several reasons: it is sweet and fresh, very quick to make, and you get to smash tomatoes with a spoon, very gently, which can be therapeutic. I served the sauce with orecchiette because it was on hand, but penne or angel hair is nice, too. The sweetness of good tomatoes complements nutty whole wheat or brown rice pasta quite well. For a special treat, skip the pasta and serve this over baked or fried eggplant slices with some fresh mozzarella, like a free-form parmigiana.
Tomatoes, and especially cherry and grape tomatoes, have been plentiful and delicious this summer, so I am looking forward to several more meals starring this sweet sauce. I hope you will have the chance to try some, too.
Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce (serves 3-4)
- 3 T. olive oil
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 pt. cherry tomatoes (about 2 c.; up to 3 c. will work)
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 – 8 basil leaves, washed and ripped into small pieces
- kosher salt (optional)
- 8 – 12 oz. cooked pasta, to serve
- grated fresh Parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)
In a large pot, boil salted water and cook your pasta according to package directions. If you start the sauce when your pasta water is just boiling, it should be done at about the same time as the sauce.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the anchovies and gently break them up into the oil with a spoon. Don’t skip the anchovies! They lend an incredible depth of flavor and salty element and do not make your sauce tasty fishy, I promise. They will dissolve into the oil very quickly. Anchovies are a secret weapon when making flavorful tomato sauce.
Add the tomatoes to the warm oil and increase the temperature to medium. Allow them to cook slowly until they begin to blister and split; occasionally stir or swirl the pan to heat the tomatoes evenly. After about 8-10 mins., use the back of a spoon to gently press any remaining whole tomatoes and then stir in the garlic. Cook the sauce for an additional 3-5 mins. and then add the torn basil leaves. Taste and season with salt, if necessary; sometimes the salt from the anchovies is sufficient. Toss the warm sauce with drained, cooked pasta and serve immediately, with Parmesan cheese if you like.