Pasta is always a mealtime winner, but it’s what you put on it that really counts. Sauces can comfort or exhilarate, titillate the taste buds or create that sense of luxuriant decadence. Pasta aficionados insist it’s the provenance of your pasta that makes all the difference, but a sauce will make or break it.
Fresh is always going to be best, and you can’t get any fresher than produce pulled, picked, or plucked moments before cooking. It figures, therefore, that for the very finest pasta sauces it’s worth going back to the source – and growing it yourself.
There are a zillion different pasta recipes, so let’s concentrate on a few of the staples behind many of them. Start now and you’ll be harvesting fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients of unrivalled taste before the summer is out, but with summer just a few short weeks away, there’s no time to lose.
Bottled tomatoes keep for many months, ensuring a ready supply of harvest-fresh tomatoes for sauces throughout the winter and beyond
The tomato is the natural partner to pasta. If you haven’t sown it by now, consider buying a few ready-to-go plants instead. Choose a variety that produces fruits packed out with dense flesh that leaves little room for watery pulp and seeds. Beefsteak tomatoes fit the bill, cooking down to give a smoother sauce, while the plum tomato ‘San Marzano’ is widely regarded as the most superior of all thanks to its dry, meaty texture and sweet taste. As a welcome bonus it’s also very prolific.
Grow your tomatoes in the warmest, sunniest part of your garden. If you have the space, plant them into the ground rather than pots or grow bags. Healthy soil, improved over time with organic matter such as garden compost, has a better structure and nutrient balance, which in turn equates to better-tasting tomatoes. Soil-grown toms tend to enjoy steadier moisture levels at the roots, meaning less watering and less chance of split fruits.
Don’t forget to keep plants tied in to their supports and feed plants in containers or grow bags regularly with a liquid tomato feed.
A TOUCH OF GARLIC
Garlic is usually planted in the autumn, to lift the following summer. There’s also a window of opportunity to plant in spring. Order your bulbs in due course for a planting project to look forward to later on in the year.
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