I found a really good one recently while taking a class with David Mawhinney, Culinary Director and Executive Chef at Haven's Kitchen—a trick for making tomato sauce taste so good that you assume the tomatoes must have been grown by monks on a biodynamic farm, irrigated with anchovies or MSG. Or at least that the sauce must have been carefully constructed with garlic and onions and just the right blend of herbs. Nope, none of this.
Mawhinney tosses fresh pasta with butter and a fine dusting of lemon zest, then with a tomato sauce made from little more than coarsely grated roma tomatoes, simmered down to a marinara-like consistency (see my dramatic recreation in the video above). He finishes with Parmesan, tapping the same Microplane he used on the lemon.
"Lemon zest adds a brightness," he told me. "Without adding additional acid (already provided by the fresh tomato). The addition of a small knob of butter supplies richness and helps bind everything together." Just be sure to add the zest just at the end, he points out—reheating will kill the fragrance and will make everything taste like ordinary tomatoes again.
Try this with the last of this season's tomatoes before they flee the market. See if anyone can guess your secret.
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Got a genius recipe (or tip!) to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Video by Madeline Muzzi
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."