I stopped, mid-crazy. “What do you mean, what’s wrong with them?”
I scrunched my eyes up and studied her face. She wasn’t kidding. “Hmmm. No. They’re perfect. Maybe you didn’t know that store bought tomatoes are usually never ripe. And they’re crunchy.” Disgusting, too, I stopped myself from adding.
She still looked skeptical.
When I had decided to make the trifecta of pasta sauces, pesto, alfredo, and marinara, with my class, I didn’t know they weren’t yet familiar with basics of the kitchen. These teens had never been to a land where tomatoes are not crunchy, the stoves are not all electric, and where pasta sauce doesn’t come out of a jar.
So in between looking for the source of the unlit gas stove smell and explaining that one clove of garlic wasn’t the same as the entire head, I was smacking myself on the forehead for my ambitious plan. When I had done my planning, my thought was, “Oh yeah, this will be easy peasy.”
Each group got a basic recipe for one of the sauces and a box of pasta. The groups had to come ask me for cooking tools and ingredients, as the kitchens are not stocked. I quickly realized that in addition to the two stockpots I brought from my own home, there was only 1 more in the whole classroom. When representatives from each group came to me to get ingredients they’d forgotten how much of whatever it was they were supposed to get. Most forgot to get the water boiling until about half way through class, so we were cutting it close to finishing a 20 minute dish in 70 minutes.
The week before I had taught them about plating (whatever little I know) and we were supposed to do a plating and photography session with the pasta, but since we were running down to the wire this is about as good as I got:
And I guarantee you that some of them will still crack a jar of Prego for dinner this weekend.
Over the weekend I was looking at the leftover tomatoes I had picked up from the Shintaku’s farm, Green Growers, in Hau’ula. They have some lovely tomatoes and amazingly priced compared to the store. Terry was nice enough to send a few pounds my way for free since I was using them for my class.
I thought about the price of pine nuts climbing 300% and the mildew that’s making sweet basil scarce in our islands right now. It suddenly made sense to throw that basic pesto recipe out, however tasty.
Macadamia Nut Tomato Pesto
This pesto is similar to a marinara but the meatiness of the macadamia nuts gives the sauce some girth. It clings better and the nuts cut a bit of the acid in the tomatoes as well. The sauce goes best with a long pasta, like spaghetti or linguini.
Oh, and use real tomatoes, please. The soft, red ones.
- 2/3 C macadamia nuts
- 1 lb tomatoes (about 6 small or 4 medium)
- 2 Tablespoons loosely packed Thai basil (or 1 tsp dried if none is available)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 C grated parmesan or Romano cheese (not that they’re the same, but Romano is an option in a pinch)
- 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 lb pasta such as linguini, fettuccine, spaghetti or bucatini
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet over medium heat, dry toast the macadamia nuts until lightly browned, stirring frequently (about 3-4 minutes).
- Roughly chop the tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Put these in a food processor/cuisinart fitted with the blade attachment. Add the macadamia nuts, grated parmesan cheese, 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and process until pureed, about 30 seconds. The macadamia nuts should be small but visible.
- In the now empty skillet, heat the final tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomato sauce and stir frequently until the color changes to become more red and the sauce is reduced just slightly, about 5 minutes. Add salt as necessary to taste, and a pinch of sugar.
- Add the pasta directly to the sauce in the skillet. Toss to coat. Serves 6-8, Serve with more parmesan if you wish.