It’s ROUND ONE: Battle of the Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce. In tonight’s corner we have “Uncooked.” But, uncooked doesn’t mean lacking. No, ma’am. I think you’ll find that this pasta sauce will put up quite a fight. In fact, if we were in some kind of “Farmer’s Market Boxing Ring,” I think the announcer would say something like this to introduce our first contender…

You know the taste of a fresh garden tomato… Relax and think about it for a minute. It is as welcome as a tall glass of, say… lemonade, on a summer day.

You can’t argue the deliciousness of a tomato on the plate. You may salt and pepper it. You may drizzle a little oil on top. You may add some basil or a sprinkle of cheese.

You might graduate to serving your tomato with some eggs. Or you might slip some into your grilled cheese sandwich.  Of course you might put a slice on your burger.

You have feasted and enjoyed! Your nerves are calm… Your tomato lust is in check… Pasta is the next frontier. And so it begins…

Gather Up:
3 pounds tomatoes, mixed varieties from the garden
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon pepper
Short stack basil leaves, washed and dry
½ pound pasta, your choice
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, optional

Mince the garlic and mash to a paste working in 1 teaspoon salt with a heavy chef knife.

Coarsely chop 2/3 of the tomatoes. Place in a bowl. Halve the remaining tomatoes and rub the cut side on a box grater into a bowl, reserving the pulp. Discard the skin.

To the bowl of tomatoes and pulp add the garlic paste you made, the olive oil and the pepper. Stir and let sit 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

In the last few minutes of marinating cut the stack of basil into strips and chop coarsely.

Stir in basil leaves. Pour off excess tomato liquid from the bowl until about ½ cup remains. This is about the right amount for the hot pasta to absorb. Taste and add more oil, salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in water that is salted and has a splash of olive oil, until al dente. Drain pasta and pour hot pasta on top of tomato mixture. Let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes, then toss pasta into tomatoes with tongs. This will warm and slightly “cook” the tomatoes. Work in the parmesan with the tongs. Taste for seasoning. Add pine nuts if desired. (I forgot to add them – they are really good in this dish!)

Quite convincing for a first round, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you don’t have to place your bets…yet.

UPDATED: See Round Two here.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.