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From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Keys to the Kitchen

Food Network and Cooking Channel star Aida Mollenkamp lays an invaluable foundation for cooks in her debut cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen. It collects more than 300 innovative, contemporary recipes, and also includes tons of color photographs, plenty of informative illustrations, a substantial technique primer, and helpful how-to information on subjects as wide-ranging as rust removal, throwing a cocktail party, and knife skills.

Leave a comment on today’s post from Aida and you’ll be eligible to win the copy of her new cookbook we’ll reward to a randomly selected lucky person (offer valid in the US and Canada only).

Labor Day might have passed us by but I’m not ready to call it quits on summer. By my clock (and some more official time-keeping sources than myself), I figure we’ve got until the Autumnal Equinox, which means that we have exactly 17 days to soak up the last of summer.

And, to me, nothing quite says summer like some amazing heirloom tomatoes. Growing up in Southern California, my mother was an avid gardener and no matter how many times we moved (and we moved a lot) or how subpar the soil was, she was always growing magnificent heirloom tomatoes. I’m convinced tomato growing is in your genes when you’re Italian—as genetically dominant as being dramatic and loving romance.

Anyway, this pasta is one of those dishes you absolutely must eat before the heirloom tomatoes pass us by. This heirloom tomato sauce is a major winner this time of year because it doesn’t cook, it simply marinates. And, the longer you can marinate it, the better. So go ahead and throw it together in the morning before you head to work, then you’ll come home needing only to toss it with freshly cooked pasta to call it a meal.

At its core, this pasta sauce is much like the traditional alla checca but, true to my cooking nature, I couldn’t leave it at just that. I used heirloom tomatoes, some chilies for a kick, and topped it with a dollop of creamy burrata cheese because everything is better with burrata.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to share my first cookbook, Keys To the Kitchen, with you. I asked the folks here at Chronicle if we could give you a sneak peek of the book. This recipe immediately came to mind because it highlights everything the recipes in Keys To The Kitchen are about—simple yet elegant, intriguing but accessible, and guaranteed to make its mark at the dinner table.

Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Burrata

Difficulty: Easy
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total prep time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time
Hands-on time: 15 minutes

So simple, but so delicious. The tomatoes, garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes create a brag-worthy sauce made sublime by the addition of creamy burrata cheese.

How to make a no-cook pasta sauce.

Good to Know
Top-quality tomatoes take this this dish from good or great so buy ones that are fresh, ripe, and in season.
Burrata is a part cream, part mozzarella cheese that’s pure indulgence. If you can’t find it, buffalo mozzarella will work well.
This dish also works well with any pasta that clings to the little puddles of sauce, like shell-shaped conchiglie or cup-shaped orrecchiette.

Recipe Within a Recipe
The tomato mixture doubles as a bruschetta topping—just spoon over toasted country bread, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve.

Use tangy cheeses like goat cheese or feta in place of the burrata.
Add chopped capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, or anchovies to the tomato mixture.
Mix with homemade pesto (see book for recipe) for a chunky crossover sauce.

3 lb/1.5 kg heirloom tomatoes, cut into small dice, juice reserved
1/3 cup/90 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 1/2 to 3 tsp red pepper flakes
15 large fresh basil leaves
1 lb/455 g rigatoni, campanelle, con chiglie, or orrecchiette
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
12 oz/340g burrata cheese, cut into 4 or 6 pieces

Combine the diced tomatoes, tomato juice, oil, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes (use 1 1/2 teaspoons if you don’t like spicy and up to 3 teaspoons if you do) in a large nonreactive bowl. Stir gently to coat well, and let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours before serving.

When the tomatoes are ready, tear the basil leaves into bite-sized pieces and stir into the tomato mixture. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook according to the package directions. (If the tomatoes have not let off a lot of juice, reserve 1/2 cup/120 ml of the pasta cooking water before draining.)

Toss the pasta with the reserved pasta cooking water (as needed) and parsley and stir to mix. Add the tomato mixture, and stir to combine. (If using mozzarella, stir it in here.) Taste and season with salt and additional pepper flakes, as desired.

Divide the pasta into individual bowls, top each with some of the burrata cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt, and serve.

Purchase: Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook.

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