As for linguine alla cecca, it's a hot pasta with a cold tomato and basil sauce, and it's so light and delicate that it's almost like eating a salad.
Heartburn, Nora Ephron
I have been a lazy cook this week. After nineteen months cooking for a family, I have rented a room in a friend's house in the Cotswolds. It is quiet, and calm, and neighbours drop round to ask for cooking advice, or drop off some fruit they've just picked. I have given myself a month out of London: a writer's retreat, of sorts, and have so far spent it looking out the window at the furious storms that arrive without warning over the valley, making endless cups of tea, running up and down steep hills, and trying to fill the aggressively blank white pages of a word document with some coherent sentences. Once the sun sets, and the need to switch the lamps on alerts me to the time, I head downstairs to the kitchen.
I have been working on a cookbook for so long now that standing in front of a hob has a tendency to feel like work. This is a frustrating reality to be faced with - I love cooking, and have since I was a child. And so, for the past week, I've been putting no pressure on it at all. Ive made toasted cheese sandwiches, with hot lime pickle (we ate them while watching Get Out through our fingers), chopped root vegetables for the simplest possible soup, and have lost count of the number of times I've put a pan of water on to boil for some pasta.
With sweaty, muggy July and August now a distant memory, and the cold nights drawing in, it's probably time to accept the move to autumnal produce. The apples are already falling from the tree in the garden two doors down, landing fresh and crisp in our fruitbowl mere hours later. But I wanted, this week, to offer tomatoes a last hoorah. A send of worthy of my beloved favourite, as I wave goodbye to the bowl of fresh tomatoes on the dining table, and stockpile tins instead.
You're relying on the glory of tomatoes for this recipe, so only make it when you can put your hands on lovely, ripe ones. These ones were so good that I ate more of the cherry tomatoes than I had planned, reaching into the bowl every time I passed, and bursting their firm skins between between my teeth. This sauce, such a reassuringly simple one, ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta, and drink a cup of tea, is the perfect vehicle for them. It's one I'll be making again and again - once summer comes back around to meet us.
Linguine alla cecca
400g ripe tomatoes
50g basil leaves
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, squashed with the side of a knife
Generous pinch flaky sea salt and black pepper
1/4tsp chilli flakes
250g dried linguine
The biggest saucepan you own
Knife and chopping board
1. Fill your pan with water, and put it on to boil. Half fill the bowl with cold water. Slice a cross in the base of each tomato.
2. Once the pan of water is boiling, drop the tomatoes into it, and leave them to bob along for a minute. Scoop them out, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to cool. Bring the pan of water back to a rolling boil, salt it, and add the linguine.
3. While the pasta is cooking, drain the tomatoes, then peel their skins off. Cut them open, scoop out the seeds, and chop out the core. Roughly chop them, or pull them apart (cherry tomatoes can, once deseeded, be left whole), and add them back to the bowl. Add the basil leaves, the garlic clove, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chilli. Mix together with your hands, and allow to sit while you have a cup of tea.
4. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, and add it to the bowl. Toss everything together. Remove the garlic clove, and serve immediately.