A summer's Christmas and tomato sauce

Growing up in the Midwest my family would anxiously await the warm weather to prep the aisles and aisles of seeds and old wooden stakes. It took several weeks of nurturing the young plants; making sure their supports were sturdy enough to hold the coming of the tall thick vines of a favorite summer produce.

Before we knew it the rows of rugged stakes had vines that wrapped around and grew upwards in a way that seemed to never end. A glance at the mature plants looked like Christmas trees full of a variety of colored ornaments. It was truly a Christmas in July that would last until early October.

One of the things that I like about cooking with seasonal produce is that you don’t have to do much to it to enjoy its natural flavors. With about a month left in the season I’m going to take advantage of cooking with the natural tartness, sweetness, and earthiness of those vibrant red vine grown tomatoes.

Taking advantage of the last bit of the peak season, I picked up a couple of softball size tomatoes to make about a cup and a half of a simple sweet, tart, and deep-flavored chunky tomato sauce that would accompany a bed of penne, mushrooms, fresh basil, and shrimp.

The first step in getting your meez together is to boil water for your pasta; I used about two handfuls of penne which will make enough for three or four. Here’s a tip that you can use to save time and for perfect timing for plating. Bring the water to boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Because the water is simmering just under the boiling point it will take just a few seconds to bring the water back to boil once you’re ready to add pasta .

While you are waiting for the water to boil take a cored tomato and score the opposite side of it. Place the tomato into boiling water and remove after about 20 seconds, then place immediately into an ice water bath. You should then be able to remove the skin and seeds easily (concasse tomatoes), and chop them into chunks.

In a sauce pan, on medium heat, sweat (about a tablespoon or two of) diced shallots and garlic in olive oil. Once you get a whiff of the wonderful aromas continue to sweat them for about a minute longer. From this point add a couple of tablespoons of white wine, the concasse tomatoes, pinch of salt, and a dash of red pepper flake.

*Turn up the heat to bring your simmering water to boil and cook and drain your pasta.

Simmer your tomato sauce for about 10 minutes before adding about a 1/8 cup of mushrooms, your preference. Simmer the sauce and mushrooms for another 3 minutes and then add a couple of basil leafs and simmer for another 2 minutes.

The pasta should be drained, dry, and plated. Top the pasta with the tomato and mushroom sauce, remove cooked basil. Add mozzarella, fresh basil, and ready to eat shrimp. Shrimp is optional. I had shrimp that needed to be used so I added those at the last second. But it’s not necessary. It did however add a nice contrast of temperature and texture to my sauce.

After a couple of bites into the fresh vine grown tomato sauce I closed my eyes and all I could see is the Christmas in July that I grew up enjoying in the Midwest.

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