Do you know Lynn Rosetto Casper? I do, or at least I feel like I do. The Mister and I have made a tradition of listening to Splendid Table podcasts on road trips. We listen to her interviews with various chefs and random food experts, and daydream about the recipes she describes. She’s the kind of lady I’d like to invite over for a summer barbeque, or to help make my Thanksgiving turkey. I’d like to star her as a favorite on my phone, just to have a quick chat about recipe ideas when I can’t think of what to make for dinner. This is why, not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the show is the call-in segment. In one memorable episode, a listener called in asking Lynn for ideas of easy, make-ahead fresh Italian dishes to serve at a summer party. Lynn went on to describe various cold appetizers and a glorious fresh tomato pasta which inspired this recipe for one of my summertime go-to dishes.
Lynn is one of those teach-a-man-to-fish types of teachers, as every time I listen to the show, I come away with not only a recipe, but with new techniques to take back to my kitchen. I had an enlightening moment when I heard her describe the process for the tomato pasta. The idea is to create a light, fresh sauce out of the juice released from the tomatoes, melded with the onion, garlic, and other raw ingredients.
You’ll start by covering a chopped onion and a good amount of minced garlic with lemon juice and salt. The key here is to wait ten minutes or so before adding the other ingredients. It sounds simple, but this is the absolutely necessary magic step. Lemon juice coaxes the onion and garlic to mellow, losing their otherwise harsh bite. Then, you’ll add the tomatoes, capers, parsley and pepper, allowing the tomatoes to marinate and release their juices. If your timing is right, you can start a pot of water to boil for the pasta while you mellow the garlic and onion, and throw in the pasta to cook while you marinate the tomatoes. By the time the pasta is cooked, you’ll be able to drain it and toss it into your other ingredients, allowing the hot pasta to further encourage the tomatoes to release their juices. A good drizzling of olive oil and some generous grindings of black pepper, and you will have yourself a meal that can be prepared in almost no time after work, or served as one of those beautiful dinner party dishes that tastes so good that nobody will know how easily it came together.
This recipe has turned into one of my summertime “gems”. Do you have any summertime “gems” of your own? If so, do share your favorites in the comments section!
Fresh Summer Tomato Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers
Inspired by the Splendid Table
A pasta for when you’d rather be sitting out on the patio with a light dinner and a glass of white wine than spending hours in the hot kitchen. It can be eaten warm, cold, or my favorite, somewhere in-between. August and September are prime tomato time, so be sure to use the sweetest and ripest tomatoes you can find. If you start your water to boil right before you start prepping your ingredients, this recipe will come together in about the time it takes to finish cooking the pasta.
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 6 medium lemons)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 5 medium), chopped
- 1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 jar (2 ounces) capers, drained
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound dried penne (traditional, whole grain or gluten-free)
Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. Juice the lemons into a large bowl. Chop the onion and mince the garlic, and place them in the bowl with the lemon juice. Add the salt and stir to combine. Allow the onions and garlic to sit for 10 minutes while you chop the remaining ingredients.
When the water has come to a boil, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside (do not rinse).
Chop the tomatoes and parsley, and add to the bowl with the onion and garlic. Add the capers and pepper, stirring to combine. Add the hot cooked pasta to the bowl, and stir to combine. Drizzle the olive oil over the pasta, and toss to coat. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired. May be served warm, room temperature, or cold (if serving chilled, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before eating).