Whether heirloom, cherry or beefsteak tomatoes seem to be abundant right now, especially if you have them growing in your garden.
Personally, my garden didn't yield the crop I had hoped for this season, but I have been blessed with friends who have generously shared their bounty. If you're growing tired of BLTs and looking for more creative dishes to use up your tomatoes, I have the recipe for you -- roasted tomato arrabbiata pasta sauce.
According to my research, arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all'arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes and red chili peppers. "Arrabbiata" means "angry" in Italian and the sauce gets its name from the heat of red pepper flakes. But don't let that scare you -- when you're the cook you control how angry the sauce gets by adding more or less pepper flakes. Arrabbiata sauce often accompanies penne pasta and may be garnished with chopped fresh parsley or parmesan cheese.
When I was young my family would spend a day at a farm picking tomatoes and once home begin the arduous process of washing, blanching, shocking, peeling and ultimately canning tomatoes. I still have nightmares about blanching tomatoes, although I did enjoy eating those same tomatoes in the middle of the winter. To this day I shy away from recipes that require me to peel tomatoes.
Which leads me back to this sauce and a reason I love it -- you don't have to peel the tomatoes! Just quarter the tomatoes and toss them into an oiled pan with onions and garlic. After 15 minutes of roasting, add some herbs and spices, return the vegetables to the oven to finish, puree and you're done. The recipe calls for dried herbs, something I usually have on hand, so no special shopping is required making this one of my go-to sauces.
The recipe speicifies plum tomatoes, but any fresh tomato may be used. When I'm not using plum tomatoes I usually add a few extra to compensate for the additional flesh a plum provides. Just use firm ripe tomatoes and you will have great results.
The basic recipe includes such a small number of ingredients that it's quite inexpensive to make and also quite adaptable. Some variations call for adding onions to the garlic and tomatoes; others add smoked or spiced sausage. I've experimented by adding roasted fennel and even capers.
While it is most commonly used for pasta, arrabbiata sauce can also be used in other recipes to compliment meats, poultry and even pizza.
Make this sauce your own by adding your favorite ingredients (pancetta or spinach, perhaps?) and if by chance you're too heavy handed with the red pepper flakes add a little heavy cream to tame the angry sauce. The final outcome may not be an authentic arrabbiata sauce, but it will be tasty just the same.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Cook of Week Challenge. Write to her at email@example.com.