With all the mass cooking and mass entertaining that comes with the festive season, it's so good to return to the normal ebb and flow of my food life - less seafood, ham and turkey and more fresh fruit and edible balcony produce.
Since we're heading down to the South Coast tomorrow for a week I thought I'd use up the last of my first tomato crop and trim back the basil bush that's made a remarkable recovery since the Caterpillar Attack.
To create my Saturday feast, all I needed was some fresh pasta, tomatoes, basil, garlic, chilli flakes, olive oil, salt, pepper and parmigiano cheese.
I used the last of my balcony cherry tomatoes and cut up the larger tub tom tomato variety and threw in some store-bought grape tomatoes as well.
In summer, I find fresh, small, sweet tomatoes make a much more delicious pasta sauce base than tinned tomatoes.
I want to use the aniseedy basil leaves whole so they almost become like a vegetable in the sauce rather than a herb.
There was some wonderful organic purple garlic at the Fratelli Fresh grocer downstairs. Bit pricier than the bleached white garlic from China I know but it gives such a superior flavour you'll never buy anything else.
It brought up a sweat but I made a batch of fresh tagliatelle pasta using my hand-cranked Italian pasta machine. I used my tried and tested pasta recipe.
I was 41 years old before I attempted making my own pasta. What a regret! Not only is it the ONLY way to enjoy pasta but I find even the - some would say - laborious action of turning the pasta handle a relaxing, meditative experience.
Recipe: Homemade Tagliatelle with Edible Balcony Tomato and Basil Sauce
500g of fresh pasta
2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, picked
5 cloves of organic garlic, sliced finely
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
Fry garlic over gentle heat in 1/4 cup of olive oil (reserve some olive oil to dress the finished pasta) until it is soft but not coloured
Now add the tomatoes and turn up the heat. Throw in one handful of basil leaves, chilli flakes salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes have collapsed. This will only take about 8-10 minutes.
Put your pasta into a large pot of boiling, salted water. Fresh pasta takes no time to cook so it should reach al dente in under four minutes. Keep an eye on it. You don't want to overcook it and ruin all that hard work!
When the pasta is cooked scoop it up with a strainer and throw it straight into the fresh tomato sauce. Don't run it through tap water as this will wash off the delicious, starchy water that will help thicken your sauce.
Turn the heat off. Now throw in the rest of the basil, half the grated parmigiano, and drizzle the remaining olive oil through the pasta to glossen up the dish.
Couldn't wait so I ate it straight out of the pot! Hubba Bubba..... this is the taste of summer! The pasta melted in my mouth, the tomatoes were juicy and oh so sweet, the basil leaves were fragrant mouth bursts of aniseed and the olive oil was grassy and peppery.
What are you waiting for? Give it a try now.