This is a recipe so simple and so quick but also so delicious that when I make it for people, they find it hard to believe. I see it as one of the key arguments in favour of the box grater as one of the all-time great kitchen utensils.
This is a recipe so simple and so quick but also so delicious that when I make it for people, they find it hard to believe. I see it as one of the key arguments in favour of the box grater as one of the all-time great kitchen utensils. As with anything involving fresh tomatoes, it’s most delicious at the height of summer but pretty darn good any time if you use the best vine tomatoes you can get.
When I mention grating tomatoes, not everyone is convinced. ‘Surely a tomato is too soft to grate?’ said one friend. But that is exactly why it works so well. Because of their squishy flesh and tough skins, tomatoes are perversely difficult to cut with a regular knife whereas the box grater can turn a large tomato into skinless (or nearly skinless) pulp almost instantly. You cut the bottom off a tomato and grate on the soft cut side over a bowl to catch the juices. Most of the skin sort of peels itself away as you grate, so that it is easily discarded without any need for the usual palaver of skinning tomatoes by blanching them in a bowl of hot water. In mere seconds, you are left with a fragrant bowl of tomato flesh and juice which can be turned into a sauce with butter and garlic in the time it takes to boil pasta. It is excellent with prawns but you can just as easily make it without. When a version of this concoction appeared in Bon Appétit magazine in 2016 from chef Ashley Christensen, it was immediately hailed as a hot new hack. But grated tomatoes are hardly a novelty. They have made a regular appearance in Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes for Indian home cooking for decades. As so often with cooking, what seems new on the page is not new in the kitchen.
Place your biggest pan on your biggest burner, fill it with hot water from the kettle and bring to a rolling boil. Salt well and cook the pasta according to the timing on the packet, stirring with long tongs from time to time.
Meanwhile, cut a very thin slice off the stalk end of each tomato. Hold by the uncut side and grate over a bowl until you can grate no further. What you should have left in your hand is mostly skin. Discard the skin or save it for vegetable stock.
Melt the butter in a wide pan over a medium heat. Cook the garlic, stirring with a wooden spoon until fragrant. Add the tomato pulp and a big pinch of salt. Almost immediately, you will see the colour change from reddish to terracotta orange.
200g pasta, any shape (to make it even faster, I sometimes use quick cooking Chinese noodles) 450g large vine tomatoes 50g unsalted butter, plus an extra slice 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced 25g basil Chilli flakes
After a couple of minutes more, the sauce will have reduced. Drain the pasta with tongs or a spider straight into the sauce. Toss and add the extra slice of butter off the heat until melted. Tear the basil over. Taste to see if it needs more salt and add a big pinch of chilli flakes if you like (I do).
If you want to use prawns, add some small wild prawns (I use frozen and defrost them with hot water from a kettle) after the sauce is reduced and just heat them through.