Ripe tomatoes are the quintessential taste of summer. At their best they need little more than 2 things to dress them: salt and fine olive oil.
Consequently, ripe tomatoes are one of the best ways to showcase a fine salt. The tart, sweet, and umami flavors of tomatoes are brightened by high-quality salt. We wanted to see if we could transfer this application to a summer pasta dish, hearty enough to be a meal in itself, but without losing the flavor or freshness of the tomatoes.
We started with the essentials: Tomatoes and salt. We used hot house tomatoes, but any tomatoes plum or larger work. Avoid cherry tomatoes or smaller; the flavorful gel in the tomatoes is essential for the sauce and the small tomatoes do not have enough of it.
Next the salt: We used 2 kinds in this recipe. First we sprinkled the cut tomatoes with Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt. The red clay's bitter and earthy notes are something special on raw tomatoes. We finished the dish with Black Lava Hawaiian Coarse because of its big, crunchy grain and its visual appeal.
To round out the flavors and textures of the dish and offset the tart of the tomatoes, we added a generous amount of chopped herbs. We used tarragon, parsley, and mint because of their cooling flavors but you could reasonably substitute many other green or oily herbs. Garlic was a go-to for brightness. For a little protein we added Feta, and for crunch and texture we added toasted sunflower kernels. These last two can be considered optional but we really enjoyed them. For the pasta, we used farfalle but a tubular pasta would work just as well at carrying the chunky sauce.
Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Herbs
- 1 pound short dry pasta
- 1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (three large) cores removed and rough cut into ½ inch pieces and lightly.
- 1-2 medium garlic cloves: minced (a garlic press works just as well)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (see above)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
- 1/3 cup feta cheese (optional)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds roasted or toasted (optional)
- Chosen finishing salts
1. If you are toasting sunflower seeds, set a frying pan over medium heat. Add seeds to the dry pan and toast until golden brown, tossing occasionally.
2. Lay out chopped tomatoes and sprinkle with salt of your choosing (in this case Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt)
3. Combine tomatoes, garlic, herbs, olive oil, feta, and sunflower seeds. Set aside to let the flavors come together.
4. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add at least 1 tbsp. table salt. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring often until al-dente. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy cooking water and then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
5. Add the tomato mixture to the pasta and toss to combine, adding the reserved cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce to taste. Just prior to serving, sprinkle finishing salt (in this case Black Lava Hawaiian Coarse) to taste. Serve.