tomato recipes for BBC Radio 4 Food Programme

Panzanella: Tomato Bread Salad
Serves 4-6, as part of a picnic or summery supper/antipasto
About 100-200g stale bread: country-ish bread such as levain, sourdough, batard
A lovely selection of tomatoes such as: 250 g cherry/grape/baby plum tomatoes, cut into halves, plus about 3 medium sized tomatoes, diced, and one large fleshy one, diced; a selection of different colours looks great but so does all luscious bright red.
1 smallish red onion, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
8-10 oil-cured black olives, stoned and cut into halves or quarters, or 2 tablespoons capers
Aproximately: 75 ml extra virgin olive oil, or as needed/desired
Several generous shakes of wine vinegar (either white or red), to taste
Several handfuls fresh mint leaves coarsely cut up or torn
Coarse seasalt and black pepper to taste

Place the stale bread in a bowl and cover with cold water, squeeze dry after a few minutes, depending on how stale it is. If it is very stale, you’ll need to break off pieces and repeat, until you have bite sized chunks. If your bread is only a little stale, you may not need to soak it. Don’t be tempted to use fresh bread as it will just get gummy.

In a bowl big enough for everything, combine the soaked bread with the tomatoes and their juices, the onion, garlic, olives or capers, and gently toss together, then add the olive oil, vinegar, and mint leaves and toss once more to mix well.

Season with salt and pepper, adding more olive oil and/or vinegar if and as needed.

Penne col pomodori—Quill Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
This is my go-to sauce when its tomato season, fed to me by a Neapolitan chef in a countryside olive grove. Any short chunky pasta is good with this, such as gemelli, shell shapes, etc.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red or other mild onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired
250g small tomatoes, halved or quartered, or whole if they are quite small
About 500 ripe larger tomatoes: medium sized, smallish, larger: if possibly choose a selection of differing colours: orange, yellow, red, green (such as green zebra, or tiger striped), diced including all of their juices
Several handfuls fresh basil leaves, coarsely torn
175ml dry white wine
1-2 tablespoons capers (either brined or if salt cured, then soaked for a few minutes and drained)
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste, if not using red pepper flakes
350 g dry penne pasta
4-5 tablespoons, or more to taste, fresh grated pecorino, parmesan,asiago, or other grating cheese

In a large frying pan heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking, then add the onion and cook a few minutes until it fries but does not brown; add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and cook a few minutes longer. Add the basil, a few cherry tomatoes, and the wine. Cook them all over a high heat until the wine has evaporated to a few tablespoons, then add the rest of the tomatoes and cook over night heat until they get saucey. You want a fresh sauce, not a long cooked sauce. (I don’t mind the tomato skins, obviously if they bother you, by all means, skin them. But I think they are fresher tasting if you don’t bother.

Meanwhile, cook penne in rapidly boiling salted water until it is almost, but not quite, al dente; drain, saving about 250 ml of the pasta cooking water.

When the sauce is ready—concentrated in flavor—tip the drained pasta into it, then toss with the capers, salt to taste (and pepper if desired), a little bit of the reserved pasta water, as needed—it will keep the sauce clinging to the pasta without weighing it down. Finally, toss in the grated cheese. Finish with a handful of torn fresh basil, and serve on a large platter, with an extra drizzle of olive oil if desired.

(note: if you have to much sauce, do not use all of it on the pasta—you don’t want it swimming in sauce; save it for another dish. You want the pasta to be just cloaked with sauce, studded with tomatoes, and hard to stop eating, it is so delicious).

Aubergine topped with Fresh Ricotta, Tomatoes and a leaf of Basil
Serves about 6, depending on what else you are serving.

1 aubergine, sliced thinly
Extra virgin olive oil as desired, for either browning or grilling
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Several lovely fat juicy sweet tomatoes, cut into slices to fit
Aprox 250g fresh ricotta, or enough for a generous spoonful onto each slice of aubergine, so it will depend upon the size of the aubergine
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino, parmesan, etc
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for serving

Brown the aubergine slices either in a hot pan with enough olive oil to lightly brown and cook through, or by brushing them with olive oil and either baking in a high heat or grilling. When they are tender, set aside. You can do this up to 2 days ahead and keep them wrapped in the refrigerator.

Just before serving, arrange the aubergine slices on a large baking sheet, then sprinkle with the garlic, top with a tomato slice, spoonful of ricotta, and sprinkle of pecorino, parmesan, etc.

Grill or bake in a high heat for about 5 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and they are heated through. Serve topped with scattered basil leaves so each parcel has its fresh sweet basil taste. I serve them as a canapé or snack if the aubergines are small enough, otherwise for a starter at a barbecue, etc.

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