Tomato is a food of love
Did you know that tomatoes are considered aphrodisiac? (That would be why I’m featuring a raw tomato sauce!) In fact, some historians believe that the tomato, not the apple, may have been the original fruit of temptation. (Others theorize it is the fig, but we’ll explore the aphrodisiac history of figs another day.) You can learn more about the aphrodisiac potential of tomatoes in my Guide to Aphrodisiac Foods. In the meantime, I challenge you to experience them at their peak with this raw tomato sauce recipe.
Why a raw tomato sauce?
In winter the tomatoes available at the market are a sad shadow of the sensual, crimson summer fruit we can enjoy this time of year. Winter tomatoes are, at best sweet although restrained in flavor with a skin as tough as a rhinoceros pelt.
And at worst, they’re mealy, mushy with an interior the greyish-pink color of a nursing home infirmary. So that’s why in winter I prefer my tomatoes reduced down into a rich, spice-filled sauce, most definitely not a raw tomato sauce. But when tomatoes are at their peak, I just want to showcase them in the raw. I love to let their natural sweetness and tangy juices shine.
A tomato sauce made possible thanks to the summer sun
I want to celebrate the stunning flavor of the tomato water; to luxuriate in their perfect, sweet, juicy, fruity goodness. What is tomato water? A phenomenon introduced to me by Chef Ken Oringer, tomato water is the fragrant, blush colored juice that’s released from a cut raw tomato picked at the peak of ripeness.
Quick note on tomato water
I do not drain any of the water for this recipe, which means, depending on your tomatoes, it can be quite thin. You can strain out some of the water if you like a thicker sauce. Simply add the chopped tomatoes to a strainer over a bowl before you add them to the tomato puree. Let them rest for about five minutes before continuing to step three of the instructions. Do not discard the tomato water! It is surprisingly delicious on its own as a virtually calorie free shot of soup or palate cleanser.
Although it is the tomato water at the base of this recipe for a a raw tomato sauce, it’s the quality of the tomatoes combine with the faintest blend of seasoning and herbs that makes this sauce one of my seasonal favorites. It’s a sauce that should only be made in summer but one that, when the weather is right, is the exactly what you should bring to the table for a low-stress, date night dinner.
This simple pasta recipe makes a healthy meal from the lusty flavor of fresh, raw, ripe summer tomatoes.
- 1 ½ lbs ripe garden tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic optional
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp fresh garlic chives use regular chives if the garlic variety is unavailable
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp coarse salt
- pinch black pepper
- ½ tsp granulated sugar optional
- ½ lb whole wheat spaghetti*
- 1 tsp olive oil
- approx. 4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan for serving
Wash the tomatoes and divide out one third. Take that third and pulse it in a food processor or heavy duty blender, (I use a Vitamix), until it’s frothy soup. If you like your pasta sauce particularly garlicky, you can add the clove of garlic here and pulse until fully pureed.
Core the other two thirds of the tomatoes and chop into ½ inch pieces.
Toss the chopped tomatoes into a mixing bowl with the pureed tomatoes, basil, garlic chives, tarragon, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. If your tomatoes aren’t peak-of-the-season sweet and juicy, you may want to add the sugar. But ripe, in-season tomatoes should be sweet enough on their own.
Gently toss the mixture to fully incorporate and adjust seasoning to your personal taste. The tomato sauce can be prepared in advance and rest at room temperature until serving time.
Make the pasta according to the package instructions, cooking to al dente. (You can cook the pasta to full doneness if you prefer, but I find biting into a strand of spaghetti with just a hint of firmness at the center to be a far more sensual experience.)
Transfer the drained pasta and toss with the olive oil then top with the raw tomato sauce.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkle of parmesan. (I recommend a tablespoon per serving but adjust to suit your preferences.) If you like your sauce thick, you may want to strain out some of the tomato "water," as this sauce is quite thin. But you can serve the remaining tomato water as a palate cleansing soup--try it! It's delicious!
*This recipe works with any type of spaghetti. I use whole wheat for the boost of vitamin E as well as the deep, nutty, woodsy flavor it adds to the dish. But you should feel free to substitute with brown rice pasta, spelt pasta or the white kind.
Note: The pasta is perfect for a picnic but I recommend traveling with the pasta and the sauce in separate containers.Transport the pasta at room temperature and top with the sauce and cheese when serving.
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