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Penne Al'Amore
Semolina, Ripe Tomatoes & Fresh Garlic
6 fresh and vine ripened tomatoes.
In the off-season, I prefer using Holland tomatoes (on the vine). While a little more costly, they have the color, texture and flavor close to that of fresh garden varieties.

A few sprigs of fresh basil

The best virgin olive oil you can find. I prefer Colavita. It is cold pressed virgin olive oil with a good body and strong flavor. If you prefer a lighter, less aromatic taste, try Filippo Berio. It is widely available and quite mild.

A good coarse grained salt. I use fine or medium sea salt but, if this is unavailable, table salt will do.

Pepper. It doesn't have to be fresh ground but a courser grind is better for flavor and texture.

1 full clove of garlic

1 pound of penne (or other) pasta made from semolina wheat

 

Begin by peeling the tomatoes.
To do this, boil water in a 2-3 quart saucepan (about an inch from the top). Remove the water from the source of the heat and dip the tomatoes (individually) into the scalding water. Watch as the skin begins to split or peel. When this happens, remove the tomato from the water and set it aside in a large utility bowl until all of your tomatoes have been blanched.

Do not allow the tomatoes to cool, but begin peeling the skin away from the flesh as soon as you are able to handle them. Also, remove any core and discard it with the skin. As each tomato is cleaned and cored, set it aside in the colander to begin draining.

Once all have been cleaned, begin to squeeze the excess water from them. Don't pulverize them in your fists, but do wring them slightly in order to produce a good, full bodied juice. This will become important later. As each is wrung, put the tomatoes into a large and sturdy freezer-safe bowl.

Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste and mash them with the back of a sturdy fork or the potato masher. Take care not to mash too finely as you will want this to be a chunky-style fresh salsa, as opposed to what we think of as traditional sauce.

Put the bowl of tomatoes into the freezer. You may safely leave them there about twenty minutes to a half hour, however please be careful not to over freeze them. You do not want a solid mass, nor do you want ice chunks to form.

With the tomatoes set aside in the freezer, begin to peel and chop your garlic. To do this cleanly and effectively, simply use the flat of a wide-bladed knife and bring it down with the force of your fist over the clove of garlic. The shell will pull away easily and you will be able to begin chopping.

Don't chop the garlic too finely. Since this is an uncooked sauce, the finer the garlic is minced, the stronger the flavor will be. And, by allowing larger pieces, those at your table - without a fondness for raw garlic - will be able to remove it without fuss.

Remove the tomatoes from the freezer and add the garlic. You can use the back of the fork to turn it in well and break up any portions of the tomato mixture that may have begun to solidify. Set this mixture aside.

Begin to boil the water for the pasta. Allow the tomato and garlic mixture to stand at room temperature while you cook your pasta al'dente. Do not over cook it. You will want the firm bite and full body to support the sauce as well as the semolina flavor to add a sweetness to the finished plate.

After cooking, allow the pasta to drain well.

Create a chiffonade of the basil leaves by rolling them tightly and slicing thin strips or ribbons. Remember: While there is no exact measurement, you are looking to achieve an artful presentation, a balance between the red of the tomatoes, the white of the onions, and the green of the basil.

Toss the basil with the tomatoes and garlic.
Test for salt. Add a little more if necessary. Remember: It is hard to backtrack and balance the salt by adding ingredients. Use a light hand at first and salt to taste. Add some fresh or coarse ground pepper.

Turn the drained pasta into a serving bowl or individual plates and top with the sauce. In Italian cooking, and especially with uncooked sauce, you will want a nice balance between the pasta and the tomatoes. The fresh sauce should not drown the penne but be a condiment to it, allowing the sweet and nutty flavor of the semolina to further enhance the dish.

Garnish with additional fresh basil leaves or tomato slices (if desired) and drizzle with a healthy bit of good olive oil. Again, a chiffonade of the basil (created by rolling the leaves tightly and cutting them into thin strips or ribbons) is especially beautiful when sprinkled over the bowl but whole basil leaves work well too.

Serve with a loaf of good crusty bread and a mixed green salad as the second course. Simple oil and vinegar dressings and vinagrettes work well in the balance and red, Italian table wines (like Corvo) are especially good to balance the acid in the fresh tomato salsa.

Preparation Time: 1 hour Serves: 4
Recipe Origin: United States
Submitted by:
Haze McElhenny
Pennsylvania
United States
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