A few weeks ago my good friend, chef & culinary author Jeffrey Weiss, came home to northern California for a quick visit. Since his schedule was going to be packed with family visits and the search for a site to open his first bay area restaurant (read: AWESOME!), I was sure that I would not see him this time around. Much to my surprise, however, Jeff called me up on a Saturday morning and said, “Hey, what are you doing today? I’ve got a few hours and I want to catch up before I head back to the east coast.”
Needless to say I was thrilled–not only to see him, but also because I was going to get an opportunity to show him what our side of the hill has been up to since his departure to New York. And was he ever surprised…
As we were driving around town–our journey interspersed with several of Jeff’s “Holy $&it” moments for the quality of the food we tried (though an author these days, his vocab tends to drift to a chef’s exclamations when it comes to food!)–we began talking about how to make a proper pasta pomodoro.
This led to talks about tomatoes and, of course, my favorite: the dry-farmed early girl. In between the proper cortado at Lulu Carpenter’s (“They know what a cortado is?” Followed by, “Holy $hit this is great coffee!”) and the honey lavender ice cream from the Penny Ice (“Holy $hit this is great ice cream!”) we found ourselves on a mission to find a few these wonderful dry-farmed tomatoes. When we came upon them at The New Leaf grocery store, Jeff’s response was another and fairly predictable: “Holy $hit these are awesome tomatoes!!!”
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon but our earlier conversation left me with a craving that I had to satisfy–thanks to Jeff for his pasta pomodoro recipe, soon to be rightfully-famous at his hopefully-soon-to-open bay area restaurant!
To learn more about Jeff, check out his old blog at http://cookinginspain.wordpress.com where he shares stories of his travels and shenanigans while cooking throughout Spain. I highly recommend starting at the very beginning. You can also find Jeff on twitter at @CookinSpain, and his soon-to-be released book Charcutería: The Soul of Spain in the fall of 2013.
Last Saturday I headed out to my local farmers market and met up with my friends at Live Earth Farm to pick up the all of the necessary ingredients.
Pasta Pomodoro Recipe
10-12 dry farmed tomatoes
2 bunches/handfuls of basil
5 cloves of garlic (2 smashed and 3 finely sliced (Jeff says “Godfather thin”)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more depending on desired spiciness
a handful or two of parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste
1 package of spaghetti
cherry tomatoes, halved
In a saucepan, add the two cloves of smashed garlic and the reserved whole basil leaves to the olive oil. Simmer lightly until the garlic is toasted and the basil wilted. Then, remove from the heat and let infuse like a tea.
Bring a large pot of water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Jeff says, “until it tastes like the ocean.”
While the water is heating, wash and core tomatoes. When the water is boiling, blanch and then peel the tomatoes, then roughly chop them.
Strain some of the flavored oil into a skillet, warm the oil, then add the sliced garlic and chili flakes until lightly toasted. Add the tomatoes to the oil and simmer lightly.
While tomatoes are cooking add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook for approximately 6 minutes, or until about half-done (finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce is a chef’s trick–the pasta takes on the flavor of the sauce, and the sauce is thickened slightly by the pasta).
Using tongs, transfer the spaghetti from the boiling water to the skillet, reserving the pasta water. Toss pasta with the tomatoes sauce and allow to finish cooking. Toss with Parmesan, a handful of basil, and if needed a half cup to a cup of pasta water. Continue tossing until the sauce gets creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then turn off heat. Add halved cherry tomatoes, more basil, and toss again. Plate and garnish with more basil.
Thank you Jeff for sharing this wonderfully easy and aromatic recipe with us. We can’t wait for you to come home.
Until next time!
Kristen & Lynette