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June 3, 2008

Tomatoes are supposedly the most common home-garden vegetable grown in the U.S. My family was no exception to growing our own tomatoes. My Nonno would boast about how big his tomatoes would grow—often the size of a softball or a mini soccer ball—showing us kids his most recent conquest from his tomato vines. It wasn’t long before my uncle also threw his hat in the ring, planting tomatoes and encouraging them to grow larger than his father-in-law’s. No matter what my family tried, ours never reached such diameters, but they sure tasted just as good as any tomato twice its size. * Note: If you’ve never had a homegrown tomato, go out and buy some organic tomato plants and plant them during the middle to late spring season so you can catch its fresh produce during the summer. Seriously, one of the best and simplest things you could do.

I understand many people don’t like raw tomatoes (I used to be one of them). Maybe it’s the texture—the tough, semi-rubbery and starchy skin combined with the squishy, seedy inside. Or maybe it’s the tastelessness of mass-produced hothouse tomatoes. Or perhaps it’s a fear of eating anything that can be termed “healthy.” Whatever the reason for a dislike of the uncooked tomato, I doubt there are many who can resist the perfect union of ragu sauce and a steaming plate of macaroni.

A plate of homemade pasta with ragu is reminiscent of Sunday lunch at Nonna’s house, sitting around the table with cousins. It’s family and home cooked into a plate of homemade ravioli, with a sprinkle of Parmesan adorning the top. It’s comforting and utterly delicious! This should go without saying that the ragu is not out of a jar purchased at your local supermarket with a Prego sticker plastered across the front. This is traditional homemade Italian pasta sauce, with maybe a few slight adjustments made throughout the years to cut out some of the large quantities of butter previously used. Cutting out a stick of butter or not, it’s still fresh and homemade and would beat Prego any day of the week in a ragu sauce throw-down. It takes hours simmering on the stovetop, melding all the flavors together. But it’s one of the most delicious things to come out of Italy, and out of my Nonna’s kitchen—just ask anyone in our family.

Personally, I’m more ragu than marinara when it comes to accompanying pasta. However, I realize that not everyone likes meat or simply has a preference for “plain” tomato sauce, which is an excellent reason to master the art of the marinara sauce, which usually consists primarily of onion and bay leaves for flavoring and crushed tomatoes.

Good tomato varieties:

Heirloom (an open-pollinated, non-hybrid tomato, which means that they are not genetically modified)

Beefsteak (good for sandwiches)

Brandywine (good flavor)

Roma (good for making sauces and canning, although San Marzano tomatoes are supposed to be the BEST for making sauces)

Tomato Resources:

Tomatoes paired with Mozzarella

Companion planting with Tomatoes

Good Ole ‘Merican T‘Maters

Heirloom Tomatoes

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jennshine permalink
    June 4, 2008 2:57 pm

    Nona… ^_^ cousins… hehe
    your old ‘back in the day’ entries make me smile too~ remembering the good old days

  2. Jill permalink
    June 4, 2008 5:41 pm

    love it!

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