We were visiting my friend Jean Luc in Paris today and we started discussing the variety of tomatoes available in Paris. He agreed, and showed me his favorite, a Sicilian tomato which is only available in Paris in the spring (picture above). He didn’t know the name but said it was the sweetest tomato he had ever eaten.
I did a little looking into this and found the Sicilian Faro Co-op with this beautiful chart of the tomatoes they produce to the right.
I believe the tomato which my friend likes is the Pomodora Marinda, best eaten small with green shooting through. These Sicilian varieties are from all over Sicily although Pachino is famous for its tomatoes. The BBC reported last year that the mafia has developed a stranglehold over the Sicilian tomato trade. I am sure this is not funny, but in my mind I see a bunch of mafioso’s throwing rotten tomatoes at each other.
A couple of observations on selecting tomatoes, Italians divide them into two classes, insalatari and da salsa. Insalatari are salad tomatoes, to be eaten raw. People select them quite firm with green streaks running through them. For the sauce, just as they do for their gelato, they want overly ripe tomatoes, full of delicious tomato taste.
Since I have all of these lovely tomatoes, I decided to make fresh tomatoes and meatballs over fresh basil tanglietta pasta. I have not seen this in the US but here it is pretty common, and reflects it’s tangled name. When cooking fresh pasta remember that the cooking times must be reduced to end up al dente (I did 6 min).
I love the little touches you find in Paris. In the photo to the left you see a bag of shallots I bought for my dish. As you can see, the stems are wrapped on a little stick to keep them together. I sautéed a few of them (I think 5) in olive oil with several cloves of fresh garlic, some oregano, fresh basil and herbs de Provence. I added in a large ripe Costoluto tomato, a little water and let it simmer for about ten minutes.
I cheated and bought some fresh meatballs at the local meat market, added them and a half a cup of tomato sauce and let the whole thing simmer for an hour.
The result is shown to the right, the noodles were spectacular, you could really taste the basil. The sauce was better than I have ever tasted, I think because of the Costulato tomatoes. It was just the right amount for the two of us.