Tuesday, September 23

Recipe: Italian Countryside Raw Tomato Pasta Sauce and a Tomato Growing Report

This simple and flavorful fresh tomato pasta sauce with basil, capers, and olives lets you escape to the Italian countryside for an end of tomato season celebration (recipe here).

Autumn already? Yes, please. The leaves have started to turn here in Missouri, and the oppressive heat and energy-sucking humidity of summer are history (I think). But just because we've already had a few nights down in the low 40s doesn't mean I'm giving up on the heirloom tomatoes and basil in my kitchen garden just yet.

As usual, I was late getting most of my tomato plants into the ground this spring, although I did manage to start them all from seed, along with a bunch of pepper plants, for the first time in years. Unfortunately I somehow forgot to start any basil seeds, despite probably having five or six different varieties in my stash, so I ended up with just a few purchased purple plants because by the time I realized I was basilless (new word), everybody was already sold out of green. (Got some beautiful purple basil? Here's what to do with it.)

My four sprawling gold nugget cherry tomato plants, which were loaded with sweet little fruits and planted first so I would get ripe tomatoes as soon as possible, were finished weeks ago; I highly recommend this cheerful variety.

And the usually prolific and flavorful San Marzanos are just about done after battling some kind of wilt all summer and offering up a small and lackluster harvest. It may have been the new (to me) strain of this classic paste heirloom that I tried, or maybe it was just the weather. You never know around here. We haven't been eating them all, so I've been drying a bunch for winter.

But the tasty and reliable VFN slicers (a disease resistant variety I bought from a tiny co-op back in 1995, my first year gardening in Missouri, and have been saving seeds from ever since) and the pink Arkansas Travelers, a pretty, longtime favorite with great flavor that tolerates heat and humidity really well, are finally just coming into their prime.

No problem. A few bed sheets draped over the plants on those cool nights and we're still good to go. After tomorrow night, it's supposed to be in the 80s during the day and stay up in the 50s for at least the next ten days, so I'm looking forward to a little more vine-ripened bounty before I bring all the green tomatoes indoors to ripen

This easy No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce is my version of the simple, flavorful pasta sauce made with chopped raw tomatoes and uncooked seasonings that is eaten in country houses all over Italy, and it's the perfect way to celebrate the last juicy tomatoes of the season.

Capers, kalamata olives, garlic, and fresh oregano and basil amp up the Mediterranean flavors, while tossing the hot, drained pasta with some of the tomato sauce juice is a neat trick that makes the whole dish taste lustier. A hunk of crusty bread to sop up every last drop of sauce is optional. Enjoy!

So how did your tomatoes do this year? Any spectacular successes? Massive failures? Tips, tricks, brilliant discoveries? New favorite varieties from the garden or the farmers market?

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