La Spaghettata – Quick Spaghetti Recipes


boiling pasta

So it’s late at night. You’re hanging with friends somewhere out on the town. It’s probably midnight or so, but no one wants to say goodnight yet. What should you do?

Take ‘em all home and make “una spaghettata!”

In my 20’s, in NYC, I incited these kind of evenings spontaneously. Dragging 8-10 people up the four flights of stairs to my small studio apartment in a tenement on Third Avenue and 89th Street. The kitchen took up just half of a wall in the same one room. That didn’t stop me from filling the place with guests and start cooking.


I couldn’t believe I found these photos online. That was my Third Avenue building. Four studio apartments on each of the four floors. This is what the kitchen looked like. A blast from the past!

I put the pot of water on, when boiling, added spaghetti, by the time it was done, my sauce was made. Everyone hungrily dove in.

What was the sauce? Something quick. Something delicious. Something easy. Something listed below. (You’ve got 7 choices.)

Then years later I heard about the Italian term La Spaghettata. Meaning a quick spaghetti dish. Then I heard about La Spaghettata di Mezzanotte. Quick spaghetti dish at midnight! Man! I had re-invented the spaghetti wheel and didn’t even know it.

I love extending the life of a party. Especially when it includes a twirl of spaghetti. Of course, you don’t have to wait till the end of a soiree, or wait until midnight strikes. Set aside a half-hour and have any of these dishes anytime.


Spaghetti alla Carbonara at a restaurant in Rome

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Roman specialty)

1 lb. spaghetti

2-3 teaspoons olive oil

¼ lb pancetta or bacon or guanciale, diced

4 large eggs

½ cup parmigiano or pecorino plus extra to serve w/pasta

1 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste

salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, season with salt, add spaghetti. While the pasta cooks, make the sauce.

In a small skillet sauté the pancetta in the oil until cooked, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large serving bowl, break the eggs, add the cheese & pepper. Season with salt to taste. Mix together thoroughly. Add more cheese if needed to make a pasty mixture.

Just before the pasta is done, spoon out a cup of the pasta water and reserve. When pasta is al dente, drain and immediately add to the bowl with the egg mixture. Mix the pasta and eggs together quickly. Dragging the bottom to top and turning, coating the strands. The hot pasta will “cook” the egg and the egg mixture will give the pasta a creamy coat of sauce. Then add the pancetta in its oil and mix through. Add a few spoonfuls of the reserved water if the dish is a little dry. Serve hot, passing around extra cheese.



cacio e pepe at a restaurant in Rome

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (also a Roman specialty)

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon black pepper, or more, to taste

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese

1/4 cup grated parmigiano, w more for sprinkling

salt to taste

Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt water. Add spaghetti. Cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan heat the pepper, oil, and butter until butter melts and sizzles a little. Add a little pasta water about 1/4 cup. Season lightly with salt.

When pasta is done. Drain and add to the sauté pan. Cook over medium heat, tossing pasta and getting it coated with the mixture. Add the cheese, lightly sprinkling. Toss to coat. Add a little more pasta water to moisten if needed. Serve hot with extra cheese for sprinkling.



Fettuccine Alfredo from my classes

Spaghetti Alfredo (Roman specialty, usually with fettuccine, but why not spaghetti?)

1 lb. spaghetti (or fettuccine if you must 🙂

1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature

2- 2 1/2 cups grated parmigiano

Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt. Add pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, slice the butter into thin pats and lay them out in the bottom of a large shallow serving bowl. Hold bowl over boiling water to soften butter a little more (not melt it), and to warm the dish (for just 10-20 seconds).

Place the drained pasta on top of the butter and sprinkle about one quarter of the cheese on top. Using a large fork and spoon (or two forks) toss the pasta quickly, coating it with the butter and cheese. Add some of the pasta water—about half. Continue to toss. Add the rest of the cheese little by little, tossing and coating in between each addition.

Keep tossing until the pasta is coated in the creaminess of the butter-cheese-water combination. Add more water if it’s too thick of a mixture. Serve hot.


Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Rome or Naples)

1 lb. spaghetti

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

1/2 cup olive oil

2-3 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste

salt to taste

Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt. Add pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, add the oil, garlic, and red pepper to a large sauté pan. Heat until garlic is just turning golden. Add the drained pasta and cook on medium-low heat, tossing pasta in oil. Season with salt. Add some pasta water to keep moist and to help coat the strands with the oil. When pasta looks shiny, it’s done. Serve hot.



linguine puttanesca from my classes

Spaghetti Puttanesca (Naples)

1 lb. spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup black olives, chopped (kalamata or oil cured)

handful parsley leaves, chopped

1 2-ounce tin anchovies, minced

2 tablespoons capers, preferably tiny ones

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, season with salt, add linguine. In the meantime make the sauce.

In a medium skillet sauté the onion & garlic, olives, parsley, anchovies, and capers for about 3-4 minutes, add the tomatoes, season with chili flakes, salt and pepper. Careful with the salt, a lot of the ingredients are already salted. Cook for about 5-6 minutes.

Just before the pasta is done, reserve a cup of the pasta water and reserve. Drain pasta when done and mix with sauce. Add a little water if too dry and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot.


sun-dried tom sauce

quick tomato sauce

Spaghetti Quick Tomato Sauce

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1/4 dry white wine

1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt. Add pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the wine, let evaporate. Add tomatoes. Stir and season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 12 minutes.



spaghetti w lemon and tuna

Lemon-Tuna Spaghetti w Parmigiano (Naples)

1 lb. spaghetti

zest & juice of 4 lemons

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed

1 can Italian tuna (many supermarkets carry Genoa brand)

handful of parsley, leaves minced

1/2  cup grated parmigiano

salt & pepper to taste

Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the spaghetti. Stir to keep pasta from sticking until water comes back to a boil. Cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, combine the lemon zest and juice, garlic, parsley and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add the tuna and break up the meat into small pieces. Stir to combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Before draining the pasta, reserve a cup of pasta water. Combine the lemon sauce with the cooked pasta. Toss to coat well. Add more olive oil or pasta water to moisten if needed. Dust with parmigiano. Serve grated cheese at table for individual servings, too.

Lentils are Coins: Let’s Eat a Million

Close up of Lentils


When I lived in Rome my Roman roommate (and soul sister), Enrica, made lentils for lunch one day. In Italy you can get lentils in a can, pre-cooked, like you buy baked beans here. They’re called lenticche in Italian. Enrica emptied the can into a small saucepan and heated the lentils. Then in a small saute pan she heated a little olive oil, added a garlic clove, and cut a few slices of bread into small triangles and fried them to crispy. We each sat down to a bowl of hot lentils topped with crispy garlic croutons. It was, actually, heaven in a bowl.

Lentils are adorable. Have you ever really looked them over? What a sublime invention of nature. So it’s no surprise to me that they represent the possibility of good fortune and prosperity. That they are the go-to traditional meal of New Year’s Eve in Italy. That they are the little horn-blowers to ring in the new year and make everyone rich (well, if not in moneta, in spirit).

On that night, lentils are also accompanied by sausage or cotechino or zampone. To make my life easier I just go for the Italian sausage (already made, bought at the store).

The resulting concoction (of supposedly homey and unsophisticated ingredients) is downright exciting. You feel you are finally having the meal that your body is craving and that your soul scurries up from the depths of you rushing like a very happy puppy for the mana you have (finally) fed it.

If lentils resemble coins, and therefore symbolize the potential for a bigger bank account, well, then, all the better.

Here’s how I make this Happy New Year treat (note: any ole time is perfect as well).



Peel two carrots and slice into rounds. Cut 2 stalks of celery into half-moons. Peel an onion, cut it in half and cut into thin half moons. Saute this mirepoix in a couple of tablespoons of hot olive oil in a medium saucepan.

Mirepoix sauteing

Mirepoix sauteing

When softened, add 2 cups of rinsed lentils. Let them get coated and hot. Add a 1/2 cup or so of dry white wine. Let it evaporate. Then add 4-5 cups water (or broth). Stir, season with salt & pepper. Add a little aleppo or crushed red pepper flakes.

All in the pan

All in the pan

Let simmer for about an hour or so until lentils are soft. I partially cover the pan.

When done add a small 8-oz can of “tomato sauce” the kind you can just buy or any tomato sauce you have. Simmer a few minutes more.

Contadina tomato sauce

Contadina tomato sauce

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of water in a medium saute pan till boiling. Add 3 Italian sausages. Poke them with a knife in a couple of spots. Let them cook, with water simmering, until no longer pink.

Sausage in pan

Sausage in pan

Let water evaporate and add just a bit of oil and let sausages brown and cook through. Place pan under broiler if you like for more browning. When done, cut into rounds.

Golden Sausage

Golden Sausage

I have to add the Enrica part, too. In a small saute pan (or use the pan the sausage cooked in using the leftover oil) heat some olive oil. Add a couple of peeled, smashed garlic cloves. Then add a couple or three slices of bread cut into small triangles or squares. Saute till golden and crispy.



Put it all together: In each serving bowl, add a couple of ladles-full of lentils, a few rounds of sausage, a sprinkle of croutons, and (optional) some fresh minced sage. Grated pecorino is a nice topping at the table, but it’s perfectly lovely without.

Happy New Year!

A serving of lentils

A serving of lentils

Braciole – Recipe & Lore


Braciole – before and after

When I was around 6 years old, my best friend, Franny Toubail, from across the street (in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn), would sometimes come for dinner. She wasn’t always familiar with the food my mom cooked. I remember one dinner where veal cutlets were a revelation for her. And that was a revelation for me. Not everyone eats veal cutlets?

No. Not everyone does. A lot of Italians in Brooklyn do.

Same with braciole (pronounced: brah-szhol). For the early part of my life I assumed braciole was simmering in all kitchens on the block. Not so. Not everyone knows braciole. Maybe you don’t either. May I introduce you?

It seems its name is more of an Italian-American concoction. The same dish is called involtini in Italy. But there’s some connection. Braciola in Italy is often thin slices of sautéed beef. And thin slices of beef is where braciole starts.

Thin slices of beef are rolled up like a jelly roll with stuffing inside, tied together, or toothpick-ed closed, browned and then braised in tomato sauce.


braciole assembly line in one of my classes

What’s the filling? Varies widely with each family. What kind of beef? This changes, too. With some cuts, the braciole needs to braised 2-3 hours, with others, the braciole becomes tender enough within an hour.

My mom’s stuffing was always, simply, breadcrumb, grated cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil. They are delicious this way. Other people add meats, more cheeses, raisins, nuts, even hard-boiled egg slices.

The recent craze for braciole in my family was inspired by a new cut of meat we found. My mom was the experimenter and whoa! what great results.

I’m gonna tell you where to get this cut of meat, but you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone else because I don’t want to get to the store and find it’s all sold out! First off, you have to shop at Aldi. In general they have very reliable meats, but look for the package that says: “thin sliced sirloin tip” and the sign on the shelf says” “for carne asada.” Yes, it’s for carne asada, but what they don’t say: IT’S PERFECT FOR BRACIOLE!

The package looks like a long thick piece of beef, maybe like a London broil, but there are 4 long thin slices piled in there. (If you can’t get Aldi’s perfect-for-braciole meat, then try thin sliced sirloin tip from someone else, or top round, or sirloin, all thin-sliced, but know that it’s this Aldi cut that cooks faster.)

Lay a slice on your work surface so that the length is parallel to your table edge.  Cut it right in half down the middle. You’re gonna layer each half with filling and roll it up away from you– you want the grain of the meat to be parallel to the table edge, too, so that when you cut across later, you’re cutting across the grain.

I’ve upped the ante with my “family” stuffing by ripping or cutting salami and/or prosciutto into small pieces. In addition to the grated parmigiano, I add some shredded asiago. Fresh parsley leaves, sprinkling of breadcrumb (I prefer panko), salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and that’s it. That’s enough — it’s great.


Roll them as tightly as possible. Tie them tightly in 4-5 places with kitchen string.


Sauté in hot oil until browned on all sides.


Make a simple tomato sauce and when braciole is browned, add it to sauce and simmer for about an hour (or two hours with the non-Aldi cuts of meat) until the meat cuts easily and is tender.


Snip off the strings, cut into pinwheel slices, serve with some sauce spooned on top. Use rest of sauce for pasta!

Let me know how it goes. I’m open to questions. It seems tricky but it’s not. It’s easy and packs so much flavor. YUUUUUUUUM.

Beef Braciole – Rolled Stuffed Beef in Tomato Sauce (serves 4-5)

1 1/2 lbs. beef sirloin tip (cut into about 4 long thin slices) (or thin round steak)

1/2 lb. sliced salami, cut into small pieces

1 cup shredded asiago cheese

1 cup grated parmigiano

1 cup panko

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, rough chopped

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling & sautéing

kitchen twine

If the slices are very long, cut the slices so they are about 4-6 inches wide. Lay a slice on a work surface. Season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle a few salami pieces. Sprinkle some panko breadcrumbs to lightly cover. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with shredded asiago, grated parmigiano, and a few parsley leaves. Start at one end and roll as tightly as possible in a jelly-roll style. Make sure the grain of the meat is lined up with the length of the roll and not “across it.” (i.e. parallel to the rolled direction.)

Cut several 6-7-inch lengths of string. Tie strings around the roll, each about an inch apart, making a knot at each tie and cutting off most of the excess (leave some of the excess knot for grabbing later to cut string off).

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a medium sauté pan. When hot, season the rolls with salt and place in the oil. Brown until golden brown on at least 2 sides or more. Add to tomato sauce and simmer at a low bubble for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from sauce. When cooled a little, cut off string. Slice across into thick “pinwheels” about an inch wide. Spoon on some tomato sauce. Serve.

Quick Tomato Sauce

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1/4 dry white wine

1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the wine, let evaporate. Add tomatoes. Stir and season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.


finished braciole

Biscotti Regina – Sesame Seed Cookies


BOOK seeded cookies

biscotti regina–family “seeded cookies”

How old do you have to be to eat a cookie? I mean: what’s the youngest age? 2? 1? 3? Whatever it is that’s how far back my memory connects to biscotti regina. I can’t remember my first bite, but I know them like I know my own blink.

In my family, they were “the seeded cookies.” Mom, are you gonna make the seeded cookies?

Sesame seeds, that is. And the seeds must have the hull on (don’t get the pale, pitiful unhulled sesame seeds). Get the one with hulls. The more bullish seed. The ones that make a statement. You can eat them raw and the taste pops. But with this cookie they also get toasted in the oven on the backs of the vanilla-strong cookie dough.

Usually seeded cookies make a grand entrance in the kitchen at Christmas time. Along with my mom’s pressed butter cookies (in some circles called “spritz” cookies, but we never called them that). The butter cookies are delicate and decorated with dipped chocolate, crushed walnuts, and pieces of candied cherries.


Mom’s delicate butter cookies

The seeded cookies are the blue-collar plain Janes next to these dainty pretty ones. But one bite of that deep toasty, sesame, vanilla-flavored biscotti and you’ll have a new favorite cookie.


adorable! biscotti regina

Italians call all cookies biscotti. They call this one “Regina” (regina means queen) because they must have been a favorite of an Italian queen. (Pizza Margherita is so-called after an Italian queen. See how important food is in Italy?) These cookies come from Sicily originally. My first sighting in Sicily was in Cefalu and then in Palermo. Seeing those very familiar childhood-to-lifelong cherished cookies in a Sicilian pastry showcase, or packed in a cellophane bag on a Sicilian shelf, was time-warping & transporting. My roots in a cookie!


in Cefalu


in Palermo

You gotta bake these cookies. Our family recipe makes a lot of cookies. That’s okay, you want a lot. When done, they resemble small Italian loaves of bread. They have the perfect crunch and can stand up to a dunking in espresso. Oh, dear, oh, yum. Take the secret family recipe below…and run!

regina 1

making biscotti regina in one of my classes

regina 2

making biscotti regina in one of my classes

Biscotti Regina (Sesame Seed Cookies)

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 1/8 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk, plus 1-2 cups for coating dough

2 tablespoons vanilla

4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3-4 cups unhulled sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate. Add 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla, mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and add to the wet ingredients. Mix to combine, don’t overmix, until a dough forms.

Place about a cup and a half of milk in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle most of the sesame seeds on a long piece of waxed paper or parchment. Pinch off a small dollop of dough (about 1-2 tablespoons) and shape into a small log. Coat with milk and set on the seeds. Holding up the sides of the waxed paper, rock the dough log in the seeds to coat then transfer to a cookie sheet. You can do 4-5 at a time. Continue with all the dough.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. With a spatula gentle push cookies from baking sheet onto a flat paper bag to cool.

Can I go back to Italy now?


our country hotel in Assisi

I just got back from Italy and I want to go back right now.


Piazza Navona, Roma

Happens every time. It is never enough. Perhaps even living there is never enough (it wasn’t when I DID live there!).

What is it about that country? Okay, I’m second generation Italian-American. So there’s that this-feels-like-home phenomenon. But STILL. The small groups that I lead there are Americans from different descents, and they, TOO, want to stay for extended periods of time.


my group with the proprietors of our Assisi hotel

Italy is the charming country. It’s the beauty. The food…

ravioli w crispy pancetta

Siena lunch: ravioli w crispy pancetta

…the People…


Every Italian is thrilled with fresh porcini season…here at Mastro Donato In Testaccio, Roma

…the differences between regions. Differences between cities, towns. The food…


pizza at Mercato Centrale in Firenze

…Striking mountains. Lush hills…


hills in Tuscany

…Stunning coastlines. Coffee…


Siena breakfast

…History. Monuments. Art…


Venus by Botticelli at Uffizi Galleries in Firenze




Bistecca Fiorentina in Firenze

…Philosophy of life.

And it’s shaped like a boot. What other country is clever enough to be shaped like something so recognizable?

On this recent trip, my group and I tasted the food of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. We dove particularly deep into Firenze, Roma, and Chianti country. I brought back many new recipes from these experiences, and am inspired to recreate many more.

One of my favorites is below. We visited a small winery in the Chianti Classico region, where they served us lunch. The star of the menu was pasta cooked in Chianti wine. Delicious! And so simple. See the recipe below and do try it. Enjoy! Ciao for now…

wine pasta

pasta cooked in Chianti for our wine-tasting at Brogioni Maurizio Montefioralle


Maurizio, the producer, telling us about the process of wine-making

Pasta Cooked in Chianti Wine (serves 2-3)

1/2 cup chopped pancetta (or bacon)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lb. cut pasta, such as fusilli or farfalle

3/4 cup Chianti wine or favorite dry red wine

1/4 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino or combination

4-5 fresh sage leaves, diced, stems discarded

salt & pepper to taste

Place a pasta pot of water on the heat. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place the olive oil and chopped pancetta in a small frying pan. Cook until pancetta cooks through and browns a bit. Reserve in pan.

When water has boiled, salt water well, add pasta and cook until almost done, just before al dente or to al dente (softness of your cooked pasta is up to you, but Italians don’t like it too soft…pasta will cook some more in the wine).

Start heating wine while pasta is boiling. Pour wine into a sauté pan with at least 2-inch sides. Bring wine to a simmer. Add a pinch of salt to wine. When pasta is al dente, scoop out with a strainer and add pasta to the wine. Let it cook in wine at a lively simmer, stirring, for about 2 minutes until wine is mostly or all absorbed. Take off the heat, or transfer pasta to a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper. Pour in pancetta with its oil. Sprinkle and stir in cheese. Sprinkle and stir in diced sage leaves. Stir to combine. Serve.

Grilling Artichokes


grilled artichokes

Ahhhh. Say the word artichoke and you’ve got my complete attention. Say carciofi (artichokes in Italian) and I drop everything.


I can eat them every day. And I don’t even need a new recipe. I’d braise them the way I always do with garlic, parsley, and olive oil. And I’m happy.

But you can’t help being creative when you spend a lot of time in the kitchen (ahhh, the kitchen). So I turned braising on its head and took it all outside.

This summer I started grilling my artichokes. In the evening sun. When hummingbirds buzz at the feeder. And a team of butterflies graze the zinnias. And tomatoes on the vine turn red before my eyes. Who wouldn’t want to spend time at the grill?


First, snip the thorns off of the outer leaves. Cut each artichoke in half.

arties ready

cut artichokes ready to go

Boil them in salted water until the heart feels softened, almost cooked all the way through.


boiled artichoke halves

Before lighting grill, spray it with PAM, or lightly grease it with olive oil. Then heat the grill to hot. Brush artichokes with a mixture of olive oil, honey, salt, and hot pepper.


artichokes brushed with honey-olive-oil mixture

Grill them, cut side down, until grill lines appear and some char appears. Then turn them over and grill the leafy side till charred a bit.


grilling artichokes


grilled artichokes

Serve hot, or at room temp, with this very simple (and delicious) dipping sauce (see below). Ahhhhhhhhh.

Grilled Artichokes w Aioli

4 medium or large artichokes

1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 tablespoons honey

2-3 teaspoons cayenne or aleppo pepper

1/2 cup mayo

juice from 1 lime

1 teaspoon soy sauce

salt & pepper to taste

Fill a large saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Salt water. With a pair of scissors, snip the thorns from the artichokes leaves. Cut the artichokes in half and drop into the boiling water. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the inside heart is softened.

Drain and pat dry. (If artichokes are very large, cut in quarters before grilling.) Meanwhile spray PAM on the grill grate, and heat to hot. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil and honey, season with aleppo or cayenne, salt and pepper. Brush the artichokes with the oil-honey mixture. Grill artichokes until grill lines appear and they’re charred in places.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the mayo, lime juice, and soy sauce. Use as a dipping sauce for the artichokes.


My Favorite Tomato


among the last sweethearts

They’ve been coming fast and fabulous for most of the summer. And now they’re getting close to their last hurrah. Get ‘em while you can. They’re planning their winter vacations now. Precious. Juicy. Jewels.


aren’t they gorgeous?

We planted just 4 tomato plants in the backyard, in a raised bed, and we didn’t know what we were doing. We planted them too close. So when they grew (who knew tomato plants like to reach eight feet?) and sprouted millions (I didn’t count, but I think it was millions) of tomatoes, we had a tomato jungle spilling all over itself.


We scrambled for makeshift stakes. We criss-crossed with twine & string until we ran out. Then we used shiny pink ribbon (what was in the house). The fence did its part (great lean-to & lean-on). All these partners worked at keeping those prolific tomato plants upright. So we managed. And the funnest part: every day, first thing in the morning, all we wanted to do was look out to see what was going on.


These plants-in-a-tomato-jungle were the equivalent of one of those see-through ant farms. The ones where you can watch the ants strolling along the lanes carrying 60 times their body weight in food or building materials. This city of tomatoes was equally busy. Flowering, leaving, pulping up with green toms, turning pink, turning orange, turning red.



The endless supply of tomatoes landed in our kitchen. Grape and cherry toms hang out in the plastic colander we used to collect them, and sit on the counter day and night. It’s our candy dish. Two or three are popped in the mouth each time we pass by.


Then there are the not actually ruby red ones, sitting on the window sill, waiting for more red. And the bowl of deep red babies ready for slicing, wedging, or whatever we come up with.


My most favorite recipe for these slicing tomatoes is Tomatoes on Toast. I’ve eaten this toast almost daily since our crop’s been abundant.

Toast a slice of your favorite bread. Spread a layer of mayo.


Slice your wonderful tomato into thin slices (or thick if you like). Lay them out on the mayo-ed toast. Sprinkle with salt.


That’s it.

That’s all you need.

Since I spend time in the kitchen (a lot) my imagination reaches for more. Like a grated fresh tomato sauce…


4 large ripe tomatoes, 1-2 garlic cloves, drizzles of olive oil, 2 sprigs each fresh basil, oregano, sage, salt & pepper to taste

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the tomatoes. Just start grating with the whole tomato (opposite end of the stem). The grater will cut through the first skin and then grate the flesh, leaving you with outer skin. Throw away skin. Peel the garlic, smash it flat, add to the grated tomato. Drizzle a little olive oil in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the herbs. Let stand for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to combine and add to your favorite pasta. It will be a thin sauce, but the flavor is wonderful.


Or a roasted cherry tomato sauce…


2 pints cherry or grapes tomatoes, 2-3 cloves garlic (smashed), 1/4 cup olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons white wine or dry vermouth, fresh herbs: parsley, thyme, sage, or mixture, salt & pepper to taste

Line a sheet pan with foil. Toss tomatoes and garlic with oil and wine. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with herbs. Roast in oven for about 1/2 hour-40 minutes until tomatoes are tender.


Or a technicolor tomato-beet salad…


4-5 red or golden beets (or combination)

2 ripe red tomatoes, cut into thin slices

2 ripe golden tomatoes (or 1 pint grape tomatoes), cut into thin slices, grape toms halved

1/2 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces

1-2 sprigs, fresh mint, leaves only, torn into small pieces

2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, torn into small pieces

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 teaspoons mild vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse beets of any dirt. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender. (Test with a paring knife.) Let beets cool enough so you can handle them. Use a paring knife to peel off skin. Then cut into thin slices. Place beets and tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add herbs and walnuts. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt & pepper. Toss gently to combine. Sprinkle goat cheese crumbles.


Or a sweet tomato tart…


2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” half-moons

salt for sprinkling

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar, divided

3 tablespoons white sugar, divided

2 tablespoons sparkling finishing sugar

1 egg for egg wash

5-6 basil leaves, torn

For the pastry dough:

1.5 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)

1/4 cup cold white wine

Make the pastry: Add the flour, sugar, & salt to the bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, pulse until the mixture is crumbly with small chunks of butter. Add wine (or same amount of ice water). Pulse until mixture comes together as a dough. Turn dough out onto a work surface and press together into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Meanwhile, salt the tomato slices and let drain in colander for about 1/2 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8” thick circle. Move to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan. Drizzle honey evenly over surface.

Place tomato slices in an overlapping circle, filling in the center and leaving about a 2-inch border of dough. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, and white sugar. Fold in edges of the dough. Brush dough with egg wash. Sprinkle more of both sugars over dough and add the sparkling finishing sugar. Bake for about 35 minutes until golden. When cooled, sprinkle with basil leaves.


But my favorite recipe— and my favorite “tomato” is Tomato Toast…


It’s strange passing by all the tomatoes in the supermarkets — and even farmers’ markets. We don’t need any tomatoes from the store. At least now we don’t.

But that will change. I can’t imagine eating any other tomato than the ones coming from the yard. But I know I’ll probably give in to the store-bought by the time we reach December. I hope I don’t forget the difference when I taste a winter tomato. But even if I do forget— the memory will race back next summer. When we plant 4 more (or maybe more) tomato plants.

Come summer!