Ah, summertime, when the living is easy and the cooking is even easier.
Memories of our long, wet winter of misery are fading further into the background with every glorious sunny day, and the Portland Farmer’s Market is positively alive with the summer’s bounty overflowing in the stands. These early summer markets are where some of the best foods start showing up: gorgeous greens of all sorts, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, green beans, and, of course, the holy grail:
What a far cry from the winter markets and long dark nights in the kitchen contemplating what you’re going to make with butternut squash yet again. It’s tomato season, y’all. It’s time to make some macaroni.
As luck would have it, basil typically arrives at the markets just as the tomatoes do, perhaps an unsubtle hint from nature regarding the merits of this particular flavor combination. Cherry tomatoes and basil cooked very gently in olive oil is itself a fantastic seasonal accompaniment to fresh pasta, but if you’re really in a partying mood you might take one more loop around your market to see if anything fun and expected jumps out at you. I was ecstatic to run across this bundle of fresh garbanzos, which I think round out this dish perfectly if you can find them. If you can’t, canned beans will work, but it’s more fun to go a little crazy with an unexpected fresh veggie. Pretty much anything will work, so long as it doesn’t have a strong aromatic profile that would clash with the basil (think fennel).
Farfalle (which literally translates to butterflies, though Americans often call it “bowtie pasta”) are a shape that are ideally suited for this role, lending themselves superbly well to supporting a line-up of fresh market vegetables. This little trick works year-round as a way to showcase and elevate the finds from your best local produce market, but it plays particularly well in the summer where the greens and reds offer interesting contrasts to farfalle in terms of flavor, color, and texture. Farfalle are an attractive shape that look fantastic piled onto a plate with the season’s colors stirred in, and they’re a pretty simple shape to crank out, so it’s a high impact-to-effort sort of deal.
- 1 recipe egg dough
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 big fistful of basil leaves
- 2/3 cup garbanzos (fresh are ideal, canned work, or omit, or sub another legume or anything else you want)
- Pecorino and arugula flowers to top (optional)
1) Follow the steps I outlined in this egg dough primer to make the dough, and roll it out to a medium thickness (setting #5 on an Atlas or KitchenAid works well). As you roll through the settings, try to form the sheet into a nice, wide rectangle to the extent possible. The more rectangular the sheet, the easier it will be to cut into nice, even farfalle.
2) You’ll want to cut the farfalle into little rectangles about 2-inches wide by 1-inch high more or less, depending upon the size your sheet came out. I start by cutting off the torn-up edges, giving me nice, smooth (and hopefully reasonably straight) edges to work with. From my standard-issue Atlas pasta machine, I usually have about 5-inches of sheet width left to work with at this point, which I’ll cut into 5 rows. Then, using a fluted cutter if you’ve got one, cut every 2″ to create little half-fluted rectangles (this post describes some of the tools referenced, if I’ve lost you).
3) Pinch the middle of each rectangle, squeeze to seal, and voila: farfalle! Some people overcomplicate this step, suggesting you need extra water or even egg to help the pinch hold it shape. Nah. Just try to go reasonably fast, so the pasta doesn’t start drying out before you pinch. And be gentle and deliberate with your pinch: try to work it into an s-shaped cross section, and keep the length of the pinch short to whatever extent possible. Use just the tips of your fingers (or thumbs, as I do):
The only real make or break thing in forming this shape is that you’ve got to avoid clumping the middle into a “knot” of dough, so to speak. To the extent possible, you want to keep it in the form of a single, tightly warped, sheet, where the “knot” is not a knot at all, like so:
4) Per usual, you’ll cook the farfalle by boiling in a big pot of water seasoned with a big fistful of salt. If still relatively fresh, these will cook to the pre-al dente texture you want in about four minutes; if they’ve dried out they may need a few minutes longer.
5) As the pasta water approaches a boil, set a large saute pan or Dutch oven on medium heat, and add the garlic and oil, stirring frequently. When the oil begins to shimmer and the garlic starts to color, remove the garlic. Stir in the garbanzo beans and cook for about two minutes. Then stir in the tomatoes and basil and cook for a minute or longer and no more. Salt to taste.
The key challenge with a an sauce like this is to time it right so the sauce is ready for the pasta precisely as the pasta finishes cooking. As always with a pan sauce, finish by stirring the drained farfalle in with the sauce for a minute or two. Then, top with a nice Pecorino cheese (I’d stress to use a Pecorino and not a Parmigiano here, as the latter’s robust flavor is not a match for this light sauce) and some edible flowers or microgreens if you like, and serve.
In terms of wine, at the height of the summertime, this dish demands a pink. I paired it with my favorite Bordeaux Rosé, Château Haut Rian, and it was fantastic.