Since I wrote about Miriam Rubin’s delightful cookbook Tomatoes back in May, I’ve been intending to try her recipe for Green Tomato Pasta Sauce from the region of Abruzzo. I was intrigued because I’d never eaten anything like it or even seen a recipe for an unripe tomato sauce.
I panicked recently when the weather forecast predicted an overnight frost. I hadn’t tried the green tomato dish and time was running out. Unlike Rubin, who is a dedicated home vegetable grower and pens the “Miriam’s Garden” column for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, I do not have a patch from which to pluck tomatoes. A generous gardening friend donated some green fruit to enable the test.
The sauce is easy to prepare. It’s a lively blending of tart fruit, hot pepper, rich olive oil, and plenty of garlic. I believe it would be a good recipe to use in the winter months with pale, firm supermarket tomatoes. I’m going to give that a try, too.
I’m curious if any SimpleItaly readers have relatives or friends who live in, or are from, Abruzzo who prepare a similar sauce. Please share a Comment if you do.
|Abruzzo Green Tomato Pasta|| || |
- ½ cup olive oil
- 6-8 large garlic cloves, minced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 tender medium celery stalks, chopped (about ¾ cup)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 5-6 medium green tomatoes (2 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped (about 5 cups)
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of baking soda
- Put the olive oil and garlic in a large, heavy, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the green tomatoes, parsley, salt, and black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Stir in the baking soda.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally and crushing the tomatoes with a potato masher, until they are very tender, about 25 minutes. For a thicker sauce, remove the cover and simmer about 5 more minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Note: Toss with 1½ pounds cooked drained rigatoni. Garnish with grated Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
O S says
A windstorm knocked over two of my potted tomato plants the day before yesterday and dozens of the unripened tomatoes ended up on the ground. The only think I could think of was green tomato chutney, which is fine, but not something I need in bulk. Then I managed to find about 20 recipes for using green tomatoes, including this beauty.
This was AMAZING. The only thing I’m sad about (but which is also part of the delight of it) is that I’ll only be able to cook it a few times a year! It was utterly delicious and like nothing I’ve ever had before. Definitely going to take as much advantage as I can of those green tomatoes now.
I wish I’d read the comments before making it, because I actually had some pecorino romano cheese, and I remember thinking that it would have worked nicely. But the parmesan was delicious, anyway. (And perhaps it’s a traditional no-no, but I tossed a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes on top just for a little zing and colour. It was nice.)
Matthew Di Clemente says
This is a famous and delicious Abruzzese dish. You make it beautifully! It is traditional for the fall. Think the beginning of November when the tomatoes are not ripening any more, but the plants are still strong and green. You can save the green tomatoes wrapped in newspaper in a cool place in your house too, and have them for many weeks. Mind you, you want to use the green tomatoes that are starting to become a little white, or even yellow. They may never become red, even taken indoors, but they will be tasty cooked, while the hard, forest green ones are much less so.
Ok, so one thing you are missing is the diavolil’ or diavolicchio – the long hot pepper that typifies real Abruzzese cooking- and a pair of scissors. The red pepperoncino should go _into_ the recipe, as you have it. But you definitely want to pass around the fresh diavolilo and the scissor so that your family and friends can add the degree of heat and fresh pepper taste they enjoy in thin strips directly into the dish. Diavolili peppers from well-watered plants are not exceptionally hot – less than a jalapeno – but have a different, grassy taste. Also, pass the bowl of crushed pepperoncino around
with a spoon for the real hot lovers. In another bowl, as you suggested, pass around grated cheese for those who enjoy it. (I often leave it aside myself.) If you can’t get Abruzzese cheese (which is granular like grana padano or Parmigiano Reggiano , but more pungent and Swiss-like) I definitely recommend good quality Pecorino Romano, like Rienzi brand sold widely in the United States. That is another very popular choice in Abruzzo, with its long tradition of hillside sheep herding. Grate it gently on the hob nail side of the grater, to make a fine, snow-like powder to crown your dish, if you like cheese, that is. Don’t bother with the stuff in the plastic jar please.
I’m so excited to see regional food spotlighted like this! One additional thing to note, is that some cooks don’t prefer the long strings of celery, and others don’t really like the pungency of strong garlic. If either of these apply to you, you can first crush the vegetable in question slightly to begin releasing its flavors, and then fry it gently in the olive oil to flavor the oil. Cook the garlic or the celery, or both, whole in the sauce, then remove them before dressing the pasta. The same principle goes for parsley stems. They give a wonderful flavor to this dish, but are not appealing between your teeth. You can pluck the parsley leaves from the stem, and put these in at the end of cooking. Tie the stems up though, with cotton kitchen twine and throw them into the sauce as it simmers. Then remove them before dressing the pasta. This is your Grandma’s “secret” herb, and just like she does, you will waste nothing this way.
I would love to see you spotlight the Abruzzese style pickled spicy green tomatoes, into which often go whole hard boiled eggs. Does anyone still make these?
And there is regional Abruzzese style cooking for you. Thank you for sharing this! Enjoy!
Diane Iannuccilli says
I made it. We loved it. And gave you credit on our blog. Grazie mille
So glad you like the dish. The credit goes to Miriam Rubin, author of “Tomatoes.” Please be sure to credit the book in your post. Grazie!
Joanna Poncavage says
A very timely recipe. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Joanna. The sauce freezes well so it’s a great way to use up those last tomatoes on the vine.