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Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil

The advent of autumn is harbinger to the many bounties of harvest time. Of particular interest are vine ripened heirloom tomatoes. Not the insipid varieties found in supermarkets year round, but rather meaty, sun-drenched tomatoes, blazing with the many colors of fall and bursting with tangy flavor. Most greenmarkets are well supplied with such delectable, as well as with freshly picked garden herbs. What better way is there to dress up a hearty, comforting dish of pasta on a cool night…and in less than thirty minutes.

The tomato has been a main ingredient in Italian recipes since it was brought back from America. Marinara is a simple tomato sauce with herbs - mostly parsley and basil, and makes the base for many other sauces. Add browned ground beef for a simple Bolognese - the real thing involves braising meat in the tomato sauce for hours. Add anchovies, capers, olives and hot pepper flakes, and you have a Puttanesca. Today's recipe is just for the base Marinara, and when made with the freshest ingredients, really needs no other embellishments to make a satisfying meal. With a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano or Romano cheese, it encompasses sweet, sour and savory flavors, and enhances the wine that accompanies the dish.

The natural acidity of Sangiovese, Barbera, or Nebbiolo based wines makes a perfect match to tomato-based dishes such as this. The intense, meaty flavor of the tomatoes and minty undertones of the basil call for a red with abundant ripe fruit, silky tannins and immediate drinkablity, such as the Geografico Chianti Classico. With plenty of berry and spice flavor to compliment your work in the kitchen, the only thing left to do is fill your glass and mangiare!



  • 3-4 pounds heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound of dried pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 4 ounces Verdicchio or similar dry Italian white
  • Shavings of fresh Parmigiano cheese
  • salt and pepper.


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
  2. Cut an X at the bottom of the tomatoes and boil for several minutes.
  3. Drain, then rinse with cold water.
  4. Peel, core, seed, and chop, and set aside.*
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. When water starts to boil, cook pasta al dente according to package instructions.
  7. In a separate sauce pan, sauté onion until soft in remainder of oil, then add garlic. Sauté until fragrant, then add tomatoes and simmer.
  8. Chop basil and set aside.
  9. Pour Verdicchio in a glass and sip - a thirsty chef is of no use to anyone!
  10. Toss basil with tomatoes, drain pasta, and serve while still hot.
  11. Add parmigiano and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

*To quickly seed tomatoes, cut in them half across the tomato instead of through the stem end. Then you can gently squeeze it and the seeds and their jelly will come right out.

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