Recipe: tomato garlic pasta sauce
My old office was directly across the hall from the Los Angeles Times Press Room in the Seismology building at Caltech. Every time there was a local earthquake in California or a sizable earthquake around the globe, the press would flock to this room where Dr. Kate Hutton would calmly answer questions. During my years at Cornell, graduate students got word of seismic events and went down to the seismograph on the first floor of our building to see the three paper records tracing out first motions. The seismology group would be analyzing the digital records, but the rest of us watched the drums roll as the wave signatures slowly came into view. Sometimes a rupture was merely scientifically significant – occurring out in the middle of “nowhere”. Or it was a scare near population centers where there was thankfully no loss of life… And other times, like this past week, it was catastrophic.
I remember talking on the phone with the lead investigator on the Sumatran plate boundary research project right after the Banda Aceh earthquake and Tsunami in 2004. As he gave me a list of maps and images he needed from our group in preparation for his flight to Sumatra, he choked on his emotions and quietly said, “So many people have died.” Part of his research involved outreach and education for the local population including posters that instructed the island inhabitants to run inland after a seismic event. Even though he felt so helpless, his work saved lives. We do what we can, however we can.
If you want to make a contribution to a charitable organization that is working in Haiti, I recommend going to Charity Watch for a comprehensive list of top-rated organizations based on how effectively they use donations to meet their aid goals. We chose Doctors Without Borders. Whatever you choose to do, make it count.
There is a recipe for you because I’ve actually been cooking AND shooting despite an insanely busy schedule. Go figure. My only explanation is that we haven’t had any snow. Thankfully, it started snowing Sunday afternoon to my utter delight.
tomatoes and garlic
I don’t tend to post a lot of pasta recipes because I don’t really eat a lot of pasta. I know it sounds strange considering I call myself a noodle-girl, preferring noodles to rice any day of the year. Maybe it’s because I eat rice noodles, cellophane noodles, ramen noodles, somen noodles, soba noodles, udon noodles, All Kinds of Asian noodles, that I never think to make pasta. On occasion though, I have made a pasta sauce that my Chinese mother taught me to make.
peeling the tomatoes
slicing in half
It’s not my mother’s recipe. She learned it from the ship’s captain of some cruise my parents took way back when. I wouldn’t have made the recipe myself based on that information alone, but after having tasted it at my parents’ house a few years ago, I was charmed by the sheer simplicity of it.
put the guts in a sieve
rough dice the tomato flesh
So it’s the dead of winter and I bought tomatoes from the store. I’m sure the sauce is even more amazing with in-season tomatoes from the farmer’s market (not from my garden, because tomatoes don’t grow up here), but any time I purchase fresh in-season tomatoes, I eat them raw – sometimes like an apple because they are so sweet and juicy. My mom leaves the seeds in, but I find biting the seeds can lend a bitter taste to the dish. However, I don’t want to lose all of that flavorful juice, so I shake the tomato guts out into a sieve and reserve the strained liquid. Once the tomatoes are prepped, it all goes rather quickly.
olive oil and minced garlic
When the diced tomatoes break down during the cooking process, I pour in the tomato liquid and let it simmer down to a sauce-like consistency (it’s really up to you how runny you want it). It takes maybe 20 minutes. A pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, and you’re ready to roll.
season as you like
Of course, you can doctor this as much or as little as you like. For me, simple is good. I like to toss this sauce with some angel hair pasta and then sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley on top. It’s better than any sauce in a jar.
fresh and colorful
Ship’s Captain’s Tomato Garlic Pasta Sauce
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes
3-4 tbsps olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and pour boiling water into the bowl until the tomatoes are covered. Let stand for 5-10 minutes or until you see the skins splitting on most of the tomatoes. Drain the tomatoes and peel the skins off. Discard the skins. Place a sieve over a bowl. Slice each tomato in half along the equator and shake or scoop the seeds out into the sieve. Strain the juice from the seeds and pulp. Discard the seeds and pulp, reserve the juice. Dice the tomatoes. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the tomato flesh begins to break down (about 20 minutes). Add the reserved juice and let simmer down to a sauce consistency. Season with a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce with your choice of cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan and chopped flat-leaf parsley (or whatever herbs you want).