We aren’t big pasta eaters….but coming home from Italy, where I had some of the most delicious, light and flavorful pasta in the world paired with fruit filled Barbera and hearty Barolo from Ricossa Winery. One dish in particular sent me over the edge, fresh fettucine pasta made with lots of eggs (most of the pasta in the region was bright yellow in color from the use of eggs and egg yolks in the dough) with an incredibly light sauce of fava beans, asparagus and tomatoes finished with fragrant olive oil and just a touch of freshly grated Romano cheese at the One-Michelin Star Ristorante Il Centro in Priocca d’Alba (which also happened to have a female chef.)
After the first bite I was inspired to create something of my own, a super fresh, uncooked pasta sauce heaping with fresh, farmers market tomatoes, loads of fresh basil and Italian parsley, artichoke hearts, a touch of garlic and shallots and lots of Parmesan cheese and pile it onto a bed of al dente angel hair pasta. You are welcome to use your favorite long pasta, like a linguini or a tagliatelle, but Gary loves angel hair so that was my obvious choice.
The main hint with this dish is to use really, really good, very fresh olive oil. With the fresh, clean flavors of the veggies dominating the dish, a high quality, extra virgin olive oil will enhance and elevate the dish to the next level. I used one I had brought back from Spain made from the Arbequina olive. It had just been pressed a month before I bought it and was bottled unfiltered. Highly aromatic with floral and herbal notes followed by layers of nutty, spicy notes. Any high quality, very fresh olive oil will work beautifully though.
Farmer’s Market Tomato and Fresh Basil Angel Hair Pasta
2 pints of grape or cherry tomatoes – we used both red and yellow, cut in half or quarters depending on the size (you want them to all be about the same size)
3 beefsteak tomatoes
1 12 ounce can of artichoke hearts in brine, rinsed very well
2 tablespoons capers in brine, rinsed well
1/4 cup kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped
4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup Extra virgin, high quality olive oil + 1 tablespoon regular cooking oil (for cooking the pasta)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound of dried angel hair pasta
1/2 – 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (we like cheese so we were closer to the 3/4 cup…)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Basil pesto for garnish (optional)
Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pasta pot. Season generously with salt and add about 1 tablespoon of regular cooking olive oil. As the pasta water comes up to a boil prepare the sauce. The sauce can also be made a few hours in advance without adding the cheese and left at room temp to help the flavors really meld together. To start the sauce mince the garlic and then make it into a paste by smashing the minced garlic into a bit of salt using the back of a knife on a cutting board. Add the paste to the bottom of a large bowl. Add the shallot, artichoke hearts, capers, sundried tomatoes, olives, red pepper flakes, cherry tomatoes, lemon, balsamic and the herbs. Chop one of the beef steak tomatoes and add to the bowl. Using a microplane or a box grater grate the other two tomatoes over the bowl, making sure to capture all the juices from the tomatoes, along with the pulp of the fruit. Carefully grate to the end of the tomatoes, then chop up anything that can’t be grated and add to the bowl. Fold everything together. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and half of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and lots of black pepper. (You are seasoning a whole bowl of pasta so don’t be afraid to season…I would say a tablespoon of each.) Let stand until the pasta is ready. When the pasta water is boiling add the pasta and cook for about 7-10 minutes, until it is cooked but not mushy. Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the water. Let the pasta cool slightly, then toss it into the sauce.
Add some of the water to the sauce, about 1/3 of a cup at a time, to help the sauce develop fully. (You may only need 1/3 or 2/3 of a cup depending on how thick you like your sauce.) Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Serve either warm or at room temperature. You can also garnish with spoonful of fresh basil pesto to enhance the basil flavors.