Super Quick Tomato & Basil Sauce

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Tomatoes! Warning: For those in the North East US, suffering from a
lack of tomatoes due to the tomato fungus, do not read this blog post, it will
cause you undue pain and suffering.

For the rest of us who have an abundance of tomatoes, read
on!

Our tomatoes are coming in quicker than we can eat them, but
not enough to set up the canning equipment. Fortunately our basil plants are
also producing.  We have a
particular basil plant that was given to us by our friend Jane, and due to its
gargantuan size even as a youngster, we call him Arnie. Well, Jane, Arnie is
now thigh high! The thing thinks it’s a shrub!

This tomato sauce can be made in the time it takes to cook
your pasta….and I’m talking thin spaghetti. I can even go out and get the basil
and tomatoes while the pasta water is coming to a boil which is not as easy as
it sounds, this being Italy and with bella figura and all that. Bella figura is
the Italian way of life that says you must look good whenever you leave your
front door. There’s more to it than that, but we can talk about bella figura
another day. So, I have to makes sure I’m appropriately dressed, hair brushed,
a little lip gloss and decent shoes before I head out to the garden. Then it’s
out onto the street, quick chat with the ladies who congregate on the church
steps, through the stone tunnel, up the street, up the set of steps, unlock the
garden gate, check to make sure the Montone Due house is still standing, gather
the basil, get some tomatoes, make noises at Tina’s cat (one day I’ll get close
enough to pet that cat!) Tina's cat and then reverse the procedure and head home. At any
moment, there is the possibility some neighbor will come along to either offer
advice on garden growing or need to chat about some other earth shaking gossip
so there is an art to getting home unseen.

Once safely back in the house, the pasta water has nearly
come to a boil.

 

At this point, it’s time to make the sauce. 

 

½ onion, thinly sliced, preferably a white or yellow hard
onion

1 cup or so of ‘tomato sauce’ or plain pureed tomatoes

1 knob of butter

1-2 T olive oil

Salt

Lots of basil

Lots of roughly chopped tomatoes

Fresh tomato and basil sauce Soften the sliced onion in the olive oil, taking care not to
brown the onion. After 1-2 minutes add the fresh tomatoes, the tomato puree,
and the basil. For this sauce I like to shred the basil leaves by hand so that
you get a rough texture. Add just enough of the tomato puree to give some
liquidity to the sauce, but you don’t want to drown the pasta in it. This sauce
is all about highlighting the fresh tomato and basil. Once everything is coming
to a boil, turn the heat down as low as possible and add the knob of butter.
Add a pinch of salt.

 

Somewhere in the time you were making the sauce, the pasta
water came to a boil, you added salt and cooked the pasta.  Just in case: use a large pot of water,
bring to a boil, as it starts to bubble, add a small fist full of salt, then
add the pasta, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from clumping.

 

Once the pasta is done, the sauce is done. You are barely
cooking those tomatoes, the basil will have wilted but not lost its
pungency. 

 

Drain the pasta, top with the sauce, take your shoes off and
eat. Yes, take your shoes off, its summertime and that’s what you are supposed
to do.

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