Cherry tomatoes have long been around, but it is only in the past decade that their quality has so improved that one is more likely to use them for their flavor than for their appearance. Cultivation under plastic canopies has lengthened their season in Italy, from early spring to fall, and although they are very expensive, we are happy to have them when other varieties of tomatoes, either for cooking or for salads, are not at their peak.
They must be quite ripe, and quite firm, otherwise they make no sense. When I can get away with it, I pop one into my mouth before deciding. If it releases dense, sweet juice and full flavor, I buy; if it is thin, vapid, and acidulous, I go for something else.
The Italian version of this sauce, which I had in Amalfi during a wine event my husband and I attended there, requires both very ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes and young onions, cipollotti. Cipollotti are onions at an early stage of development when the bulbs are small and tender. They are sold with their green shoots still on. I have never seen them in an American market, but I always see scallions, which are rare in Italy. Having made that substitution I also opted for jalapeño peppers, rather than the fresh small red chili pepper—peperoncino—that Italians are accustomed to using. Jalapeño is an unusual example of a nontraditional ingredient whose fresh and attractive aroma finds a ready welcome in an Italian dish.
A slim shape of boxed dry pasta such as spaghettini or narrow penne.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.