I adore tomatoes, in all their various forms, and what better place than Italy to enjoy them! When the tomatoes come into season, it is time to celebrate!
Caprese salad with large, sliced ripe tomatoes, served with the freshest Mozzarella di Bufala, and garnished with basil, only needs a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt to begin the celebrations!
The tiny pomodorini, are almost candy-like and are fabulous in salads or quickly sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and peperoncino (chili pepper) for a fast sauce.
Green tomatoes are usually used in salads and add a fresh acidic taste. Do not think that your vegetable shopkeeper is giving you bad tomatoes if he gives you green ones for your salad; they are preferred by the Florentines. Try them and you will be surprised.
The deep-red, ripe tomatoes are used for making sauce, Pomorola (see recipe in sidebar). It is the simplest and easiest sauce to make, showing off the best of the season and great to preserve for the winter, when the ripe fresh tomatoes are no longer available.
San Marzano is the traditional tomato used. But here in Florence we have large pumpkin-shaped tomatoes, called Fiorentini, which I prefer for making pomarola. They are thin-skinned and have a larger pulp to seed ratio. Getting the kids involved in making the sauce is fun as the tomatoes are easily squashed by hand into the pot. They are then cooked with salt and basil – the flavour of summer in your mouth!
A great way to prepare tomatoes for a main course is Pomodorini al Riso (see recipe in sidebar) – large, round, ripe tomatoes stuffed with basil and garlic-infused rice and baked in the oven. Served cold or at room temperature, they are perfect for a summer buffet dinner.
Pane al Pomodoro is a wonderful snack to make. Cut open a large tomato and rub it onto a slice of toasted Tuscan bread, all that should be left in your hand is the skin! Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.
A quick pasta for summer is Spaghetti alla Cecca. Prepare tomatoes as you would for bruschetta, removing the seeds and chopping the tomato into small bits. Season with minced garlic and basil, olive oil and salt. Drain the pasta and serve the cold marinated tomatoes on top
To make your own Pomarola
Squeeze one kilogram of rich, meaty RIPE tomatoes into a large pot.
Add some torn basil leaves and a large pinch of salt.
Cover pot and let cook over medium-high heat until the tomatoes fall apart.
Pass the tomatoes and all their liquid through a food mill (moulix), not a food processor which would only chop the skin into the sauce.
Keep puréeing until all that is left are the skins, rolled up, releasing all the tomato pulp.
The food mill removes all the skin and seeds and leaves you only with the rich tomato puree.
If the sauce is watery, cook uncovered until it thickens.
Serve as is or add one tablespoon of butter and some grated parmesan cheese.
This is best served on small spaghetti or potato gnocchi.
Pomodorini al Riso
6 small round salad
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs chopped basil
2 tbs Parmesan cheese,
Cut the top third off the tomatoes.
Scoop out and save the seeds and pulp, chopped, in a small bowl.
Add the raw rice, chopped basil, garlic, and parmesan.
Moisten with olive oil.
Fill tomatoes 2/3 full with the rice mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 200 °C until the rice is cooked.
Serve at room temperature