This time of the year, for anyone who has a reasonable size garden, is both awesome and overwhelming. The garden is bursting with perfectly ripe peppers, tomatoes, beans, tomatillos, egg plants, broccoli, not to mention crowed rows of kale, Swiss chard, spinach and herbs, just to name a few. It’s pay-off time for all the hard work that goes into maintaining a garden, but with it, for me, comes this overwhelming need to preserve as much of the food as I can. There is always baskets or half bushels of produce on the back porch or dinning room table waiting for processing and preserving.
But, as important as the preserving is to me, it is also equally important that I enjoy the fresh produce. After all, just picked-from-the-garden meals are not something that can be enjoyed most of the year. This recipe is my favorite way to enjoy the tomatoes when they are just picked from the vine.
It is a very simple dish highlights the flavor of the fresh tomatoes. It’s a pesto and tomato fettucini, deconstructed. I have been making this dish for a very long time. In fact, my first garden consisted only of five Roma tomato plants and two basil plants, because of this dish, and as soon as I had about 20 or so ripe Roma tomatoes, I was in the kitchen blanching.
For those of you who are not growing tomatoes, I noticed a few stores have locally-grown Roma tomatoes for less than $2 a pound. Also, the farmers’ market is always a great option for different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, as well as organic. Meaty tomatoes are the best choice for this recipe, so talk to the growers at the farmers’ market about their varieties and choose one that holds up to blanching but also has a great fresh taste.
The heirloom Roma variety that we grow is called Speckled Roman and it is one of the best tomatoes I have ever eaten. The plants require a lot of pampering and they seem to be more susceptible to blight than our other tomato varieties, but we feel it is totally worth it. As soon as you bite into that first tomato of the season, all the work that went into keeping them blight-free and upright is forgotten.
Deconstructed Tomato Pesto Fettucini
- 15-20 medium tomatoes (Roma varieties are best)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup chopped basil
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano or Gruyere cheese
- 9 oz of fresh fettucini pasta
Prepare a bath of ice water in a large bowl or in the sink. In a large pot, boil water for blanching tomatoes. Drop tomatoes into vigorously boiling water for 30 seconds for smaller tomatoes or up to one minute for larger tomatoes. You’ll know when they are ready when the skins start to crack. Do not leave in the boiling water for more than one minute or you will overcook the tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice bath. Blanch in batches of 5-6 tomatoes at a time. Alternatively you can use a blancher.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes and core the tomatoes with a small paring knife. After all of the tomatoes have been blanched, skinned and cored, quarter each tomato and remove the seeds. Place the finished tomatoes in a bowl, cover and set aside.
Toast the almonds in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep the almonds from burning. Remove from pan as soon as they are toasted and set aside.
Boil pasta according to label directions, drain and set aside. In the pot used to boil pasta heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and basil and stir for a minute or so. Do not overcook the garlic. Stir in tomatoes. Heat for two minutes and then add pasta and cheese and stir until mixed. Heat for another minute or two, until everything is hot. Stir in almonds and serve immediately. Garnish with additional cheese and chopped basil.