Come August, tomatoes are everywhere. They're falling out of bushels and off tabletops at farmers' markets and are in endless numbers of dishes at restaurants.
While many restaurants cook with tomatoes year-round, in the summer they often turn to fresh, local and in-season tomatoes because they know their dishes will be that much more flavorful.
At the new restaurant Antica Pesa (115 Berry St., Williamsburg, 347-763-2635), which has been drawing celebrities from Madonna to Bill Murray and boasts a sister restaurant of the same name in Rome that's been open since 1922, tomatoes are all over the menu. And the sauce on the linguine is at its most fresh right now.
"The sauce is a family recipe," said co-owner Simone Panella. "We make [it] every summer when tomatoes are in season and keep it in jars to use throughout the winter."
This classic Italian dish is particularly exciting and tasty because not only does it call for both tomato sauce and pesto, but the preparation is slightly different from what you might expect.
"Baking the tomatoes instead of just cooking them in a pot gives the sauce a more interesting, roasted flavor," said Panella, who runs Antica Pesa with his brother Francesco.
The tomato is actually a fruit, and it is widely considered one of the best food items for you because of one nutritional component: lycopene, which is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants in existence. The richest source of lycopene in the diet is the tomato. Studies have shown lycopene can protect against prostate cancer, breast cancer, skin disease and urinary tract infections. Tomato consumption might also be beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 diabetes.
Linguini with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Pesto
For tomato sauce
- 3 pounds tomatoes on the vine
- 3 small cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 1 stick celery
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- ½ bunch basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For basil pesto
- 1 bunch basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons parmigiano cheese
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella
- 1.5 lbs. linguini
Cut tomatoes, carrot, celery and onion. Place in a roasting pan with torn basil. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Put vegetables in blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set sauce aside.
Place basil leaves in boiling salted water for 10 seconds. Remove from water and shock basil in bowl of ice water until cool. (This is very important when making the pesto as it will help the sauce retain its bright green color instead of turning dark brown as pesto is known to do)
Blend basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts and oil together in a blender. If the sauce appears to be separating, add a bit of water and keep blending. This will help the oil better incorporate into the sauce.
In a small roasting pan, drizzle cherry tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. If tomato sauce has cooled, reheat it on the stove. Place pesto in a bowl (do not reheat) and mix with cooked pasta.
To plate: spoon tomato sauce onto each plate. Place one serving of pasta in the center of each plate (tomato sauce should be visible around the pasta), garnish each plate with a few roasted cherry tomatoes and top pasta with two fresh pieces of bufalo mozzarella.