With the beautiful weather of the past few days my tomatoes have been ripening well, and today, when I actually should have been working hard but was procrastinating wildly, I went out into the garden to pick some of the Italian San Marzano tomatoes (seeds were from Seeds of Italy/Franchi). As procrastination is the mother of invention, I decided to make passatta and to improve on my slightly lacklustre version of oven-dried tomatoes from last week.
The passatta was amazingly simple. I chopped up up all the tomatoes in chunks and added in a couple of sprigs of fresh basil (no quantities really – just as many as you can into a big heavy saucepan). Then I put them over a medium heat, turning it down after about 5 or 10 minutes when they’d started to break up. I simmered the tomatoes on a lower heat for about 30-40 minutes until they were really broken down and mushy. When the mixture had cooled down a bit I put it through a rotary mouli to get rid of the skin and pips. (This is what a mouli looks like if you’re not sure) It was so much easier and quicker than putting it through a sieve. At that point I should have simmered them down some more, gently friend some onions in olive oil with maybe a touch of garlic and then liquidised that and added it to the tomatoes. But my daughter wanted to know what was for supper so I came up with this:
Tomato, chilli & pancetta pasta (serves 3-4)
75g diced pancetta (I used one of those supermarket packs)
400-500ml or 2 cups pureed tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
1 red onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
handful of fresh basil leaves
handful of black olives (without stones, halved)
In a large saucepan or frying pan fry the pancetta in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until slightly crispy but not too dried out. Add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until translucent, add the chopped garlic and about half of your basil leaves. Adding some of the basil at this point means that the flavour infuses into the oil. Also add a chopped red chilli, deseeding it if you don’t want it to be too hot. Stir for a couple of minutes to soften the garlic. Add the pureed tomatoes and the olives. Add the remainder of the basil now. Season to taste. Simmer for ten minutes over a low heat while you boil up the pasta.
Serve with parmesan grated over the top if you want it (but its not essential). This got wolfed down so quickly by the kids that I didn’t have a chance to take a photo, but I’m on pain of death to make it again, so I’ll try to upload a photo later.
The chilli on the right was the one that made it into the sauce. Rather stupidly I forgot to label the chillies when I planted them out from their Jiffy 7s into proper pots. Some were hot varieties and others weren’t, so its now a case of Russian Roulette. Luckily these were perfect – they had a bit of a kick if you left the seeds in but were quite mild otherwise. Fine for a slightly squeamish thirteen year old who doesn’t like hot things.
All the while the Principe Borghese tomatoes were drying in the oven. Very slowly. At about 110C, for about 3 hours, maybe more. All the while the work I actually needed to do was piling up.