Under the Tuscan Sun
The status right now outside my window is hot. There’s not really a significant value in defining a particular temperature degree. Bothering into looking up for a numerical value is even petty from us. The real value lies on defining the weather by the clothes you need to wear or the foods you need to eat. Clothes need to be short and strappy. Foods need to be easy, juicy and refreshing. These are the practical values we need to make our dreams about summer and limn what will be the warm days ahead.
When I started my days as a married woman it was summer as well. We got married in May and two weeks later came back from an out-of-an-European-romantic-movie type honeymoon. There were late mornings and later nights. Croissants through the sidewalks of Florence and late pizza lunches soaking the last rays of sunshine that were vanishing on the horizon from an open restaurant at Chianti. I never, in my wildest dreams thought at that moment that I’d be a storyteller of the happenings inside my kitchen.
But for some reason we spent a good time and budget buying ingredients that we could bring back home. Pastas of course were filling a good space between towels in our bags. Wine, limoncello and grappa also found their spot, besides some kinds of sundried tomatoes, pickled pepperoncino and other condiments that, even without the verb “google it” around, I was determined to take home first and somehow figure out how to use them later.
Coming back to pastas, I started to make them practically on a daily basis after returning home. I had always been fond of pastas, but after that trip, my perspective on how to cook them changed completely. Since it was summer, it was very practical to toss some al dente pasta with lots of vegetables, tomatoes, olive oil and cheese. Very rustic! I remember sautéing small tomatoes, such as Roma or Campari, with loooots of olive oil and oregano and then tossing them with some al dente linguine. Again, I was not in the cooking business and still for some reason I named that dish linguine de vacaciones, vacationing linguine, because for me it was like the linguine were so lazy on summer the best it could do for us was mingling with simple tomatoes. Yes, Disney gives human personalities to animals, I give human personalities to pasta!
This dish is not too far from that idea. This time though I cooked pappardelle, which lately has become one of our favorite pasta shapes. I just sautéed tomatoes with olive oil, a good amount of it because basically it makes the sauce. Wanted to add some peas to make it more substantial and to give it a nice bite. Also, I used some leftover pesto sauce I had in my fridge but you may leave it out completely, this pasta is really good by itself with the olive oil and the summer juices of tomatoes. You’ll find yourself eating a plate of summer!
1. You may use you favorite tomatoes for the recipe.
2. Keep around the pasta water. Remember that this water and the olive oil are your sauce. If the pasta seems dry when combining it with the tomatoes add just a little of it and even an extra drizzle of olive oil, and continue cooking.
3. Since this is a barely cooked sauce, adjust the taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving.
Pappardelle with peas, pesto & tomatoes
Total time and prep time – 15 minutes
Equipment – small sauce pan, large pot for boiling the pasta, large skillet
Green peas, frozen or fresh – ½ cup
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp + 1 Tsp + ½ Tsp for the vegetables
Papardelle – 8 oz
Olive oil – 3 TBSP
Campari tomatoes, in halves – 1 cup or 4 tomatoes
Medley tomatoes (grape, golden, green, orange and brown), in halves – 1 cup
Pesto sauce – ¼ cup
Salt & freshly ground pepper to adjust flavor
Basil or mint leaves to serve
In a small saucepan bring 1 to 1 ½ cup of water to a boil. Add the ¼ Tsp of salt and the green peas. Cook for 1 minute or less if you want them al dente or about 2 minutes if you want them tender. Using a spider spoon or through a colander, strain the peas and set aside.
In a medium to large pot bring about 4 to 5 cups of water to a rolling boil. Sprinkle in the 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the pasta and move it around so all the noodles soak completely. Boil for about 10 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, cut and prep the tomatoes.
When the pasta is 4 to 5 minutes shy to be done, heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet on medium-high heat, around 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté frequently for 1 to 2 minutes, until they become barely tender. Sprinkle some of the remaining salt, ¼ teaspoon plus 1 pinch, and toss a bit more. With a pasta scoop fetch the noodles from the boiling water and add them in the skillet with the tomatoes. Combine everything, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the skillet to keep the noodles moist. Cook for 2 minutes, tossing and moving everything frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking at the bottom of the pan. If it’s becoming too hot, lower the heat a bit. Add the peas and the pesto sauce, and a bit of the pasta cooking water if needed. Combine once more and cook for 1 more minute to bring everything together. Retire from the heat and sprinkle some extra salt if needed and freshly ground pepper, more pesto sauce, basil or mint leaves if desired.