Monday, 27 April 2009

Tomato heaven

Posted by Sarah Vine.

Okay, so last night, with a razor-blade throat and exhausted from a long journey, I improvised with some tomatoes. I am always amazed by the healing power of the humble tomato. This is unbelievably simple to make, but utterly delicious (I think).

Take as many tomatoes as you can find in the bottom of your fridge (it doesn't matter how old they are, just sling them in). I would say the minimum for two people would be about 20 small ones. Small ones are the best, those little plum tomatoes are ideal. Pop them in a pan of cold water with a little salt and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, assemble the following: some fresh basil (or sage, or even at a push parsley or thyme: just as long as it's fresh), a handful of olives (pitted and cut in half, preferably black), about four anchovies (chopped) and two cloves of garlic (chopped). NO ONIONS PLEASE. Choose your pasta (fusilli are especially good, since they catch the sauce nicely), and bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. You will also need a small glass of red wine, some black pepper, a pinch of dried chilli and about a cup of grated parmesan.

When your tomatoes are on a rolling boil, the skins will start to come away. Take them off the heat and douse in cold water. Remove the skins, cut off the bottomy bits and slice in half. It's best to do this on a plate if you can, so that you don't lose any of the lovely juice.

In a small saucepan, gently fry the garlic in olive oil, taking great care not to burn it (if you do burn it, start again: burnt garlic is horrid, and it will blow away all the other flavours). Add your fresh tomatoes and simmer. Throw in the anchovies (no salt at this stage, you'll need to wait and see how salty the anchovies make it first) and the wine. Stir. Add chilli and pepper to taste, and half the basil.

Turn the heat down and allow to simmer. By now you pasta pot should be bubbling away nicely, so you can cook the pasta. Remember to stir thoroughly once the pasta is in (no need to add olive oil if you do this).

Check your sauce, which should be reducing nicely. Adjust seasoning if necessary (you can add a bit of sneaky Bouillon at this stage if you like, but just the merest pinch). When the sauce begins to thicken (after about 10 minutes), add the olives and the rest of the basil. Simmer for a further couple of minutes and then the heat off.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot immediately. Place on a low heat and stir in a good glug of olive oil. Now add the sauce, stir, and finally the parmesan. Spoon into large bowl and eat, very hot. Mmm.


  1. Damn, I'm hungry. Sounds delicious...

  2. We made this sauce at my cookery class recently, although I must admit I added onion the second time (probably working off the more vegetables the better theory).

    Great recipe!

  3. Yum! Terrific recipe. Pass the valpolicella please...

  4. Hooray as well as Yum! An onion-free sauce: apart from anything else, it makes it so much quicker! Thank you Sarah

  5. sounds delish. just a technical q- wouldnt one wait till the water comes to a rolling boil before throwing in the tomatoes? thanks for sharing this recipe, sarah.


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