Look, I can’t pretend it’s autumn here in L.A. To be blunt: it’s as summery as it was in July, though the mornings and evenings are cooler. The telltale sign is what I’m seeing at the farmer’s market: sure, there’s kabocha squash–and I made a very excellent risotto out of it–but, way more present still are heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, basil and all of those sum sum summertime ingredients. If I were a disingenuous food blogger, I could pretend I was crunching through falling leaves, sipping cider and humming the theme from “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Instead, I’m going to share this amazing recipe from last week’s trip to the farmer’s market despite its unavoidable summeryness.
You won’t be able to blame me, though, when you see this:
The most gorgeous Sun Gold tomatoes, positively bursting with sweetness and sunshine. The second I saw them I knew I had to buy them, along with some basil, to make a recipe Tony Mantuano taught me for my cookbook.
This recipe is 100% technique and 0% following specific steps. There won’t be a condensed recipe at the end because you don’t need one. The main thing you need to know is that the tomatoes need to fry in hot olive oil before you add pasta cooking water and emulsify that oil to create a sauce. But the frying is essential and that only happens if (1) you dry your tomatoes off after washing them; and (2) you get your oil hot enough.
First, flavor the olive oil with garlic. Just pour in about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a wide skillet and add 4 to 5 cloves of thinly sliced garlic.
Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to a boil, season well with salt (it should taste salty; the salt in that water is going to flavor the sauce) and add your spaghetti.
Turn up the heat on the pan with the oil and garlic and as the garlic starts to turn golden brown, add all of your tomatoes.
Don’t add salt! That’ll make the tomatoes break down. You just want the tomatoes to fry and sizzle in that hot garlicky oil for 3 minutes or so on high heat. They should start to burst and shrivel, slightly.
At that point, add a ladleful of your pasta cooking water and step back–it’ll sputter and spurt. Stir together and lower the heat slightly, though it should still bubble. At this point, taste a spoonful. It should taste amazing. Also, at this point, your spaghetti just be just al dente. Use tongs to lift it into the pan with all of the tomatoes, turn the heat back up and if the pan’s dry, add another ladleful of pasta cooking water. Cook, stirring all around with tongs, until the liquid’s absorbed and the spaghetti’s coated. Add shredded basil and NO CHEESE (it’s not that kind of pasta) and look:
It’s totally the wrong thing to eat in October but I guess we can pretend those little orange tomatoes are little pumpkins, right? Hey, can I help it if this is what’s available at the farmer’s market? Food magazines are all shoving turkeys and pumpkins down your throat, but I’m here with my sun gold tomatoes and I’m not going to hide that fact. My name is Adam, I live in Los Angeles and I eat summer food in October. Get over it.