Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Chocolate Pavlova with Strawberries

by Kristin on August 23, 2009

One of my favorite things to do when I visit my mom is to sit down with a cup of coffee and flip through her stash of magazines. I never buy them myself, so it’s a treat to have so many to look through at one time, and she always has half a dozen cooking ones lying around (some of which invariably find their way into my suitcase … sorry Mom!). If I remember correctly, I first came across this recipe in one of her Martha Stewart magazines about 10 years ago, and it was the first time I’d ever heard of peeling tomatoes. It quickly became a favorite summertime staple, one that we look forward to having as soon as good tomatoes are available. If I had to pick just one dish that sums up summertime to me, this would be it.

Still looking for more ways to use up tomatoes? Try Chicken Cacciatore, Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Tart, Ravioli and Tomato Salad, Oven-roasted Ratatouille or Spaghetti with Roast Cherry Tomatoes, Chili and Basil.

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

3 lb (1.4 kg) ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb (450 g) spaghetti (or angel hair or linguine)
freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

First, skin the tomatoes. To do this, cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife, then pour boiling water over them and leave until the skin around the X starts to curl away, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool, then slip off their skins. Cut into quarters or roughly chop them — it doesn’t matter too much since they’ll break up during the cooking anyway. If you want,  you can deseed the tomatoes to make a thicker, more concentrated sauce, but I rarely bother and just let it simmer for longer instead.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or stockpot (one that is big enough to hold all the tomatoes). Saute the garlic for 1 minute, taking care not to let it burn or it will ruin the flavor of the sauce. Add the tomatoes, basil and the teaspoon of sugar. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened, stirring now and then. You could serve the sauce now, or let it continue simmering until it has reduced even further — I always let it bubble away for at least 1 hour, and preferably 90 minutes.

Put a pot of water on to boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Divide the pasta between 4 bowls and spoon the tomato sauce over. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve. This is fantastic with a simple green salad and garlic bread.

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chocolate pavlova with strawberries

Chocolate Pavlova with Strawberries
adapted from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

Serves 8 to 10

for the chocolate meringue base:
6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups (300 g) caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup (50 g) dark chocolate, finely chopped

for the topping:
2 cups (480 ml) cream
1 lb (450 g) strawberries or raspberries
2–3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tray with baking parchment and draw a circle approximately 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter onto the paper with a pencil (or just trace around a dinner plate). Just make sure the circle doesn’t go too close to the edge of the baking sheet, because the pavlova will spread a bit during cooking. Flip the paper over so that the penciled-in circle is facing down onto the sheet (so that the pavlova doesn’t come into direct contact with the pencil lead).

Beat the egg whites in a spotlessly clean and perfectly dry bowl until satiny peaks form, then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa, vinegar and chopped chocolate. Gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.

Mound the mixture onto the circle you’ve drawn onto the baking parchment, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300°F (150°C) and cook for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely (or you could even leave it in the oven overnight).

When you’re ready to serve, invert the cooled pavlova onto a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the fruit. Coarsely grate the chocolate so you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the berries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.

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