Some cookbook authors have earned my complete trust, and Amy Chaplin is one of them. I’ve never made a thing I didn’t love from her stunning first book, 2014’s “At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen,” and have recommended it countless times. So I knew that when the Australian teacher, consultant and personal chef came out with another book, history would surely repeat itself.
Chaplin’s latest, “Whole Food Cooking Every Day” (Artisan, 2019), starts with the same philosophy as her first — that cooking with ingredients as close to their natural state as possible can be inspiring and nourishing. But this time, she sets out to make the prospect even more accessible, using base recipes for pastas, soups, nut butters, sauces, beans, muffins and more, and then expanding each with multiple variations.
I plan to cook my way through the book, and I started with a base recipe for pine nut pasta sauce that coated a bowl of whole-wheat spaghetti so beautifully it almost didn’t become one of the variations. The chunky puree of toasted pine nuts, olive oil, lemon and salt created the cheesiest nondairy sauce I think I’ve ever tasted. I immediately added this technique — with pine nuts, or another nut — to my repertoire.
As instructed by Chaplin, I then tossed the pasta with raw tomatoes I had marinated in more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and garlic and, well, another star was born. Suffice to say that when my colleagues and I tasted it, we were floored.
In the winter, I’ll make another variation, with lemon, red chile pepper and parsley; come spring, there’s a bowl of green-pea pasta with pea shoots to be had. If either of them tastes half as good as this summery tomato dish — and I know they will — I’ll be so happy.
SUMMER TOMATO AND BASIL PASTA WITH PINE NUT SAUCE
4 to 6 servings
For extra visual appeal, choose a variety of tomato colors: We used Green Zebra, yellow and red.
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup (1/2 ounce) fresh basil leaves, torn
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, pressed or grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
One (12-ounce) package gluten-free or whole-grain pasta, such as penne, spaghetti or fettuccine
Warm a medium skillet over medium heat. Toss in the pine nuts and toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a mini food processor and add 3 tablespoons oil, the lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth, scrape the sides and blend again.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes and their juices, basil, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and the pepper and toss thoroughly. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside to marinate while you cook the pasta. (You can prepare the tomatoes up to 3 hours in advance.)
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain the pasta well and return to the pot. Add the pine nut sauce and toss to evenly coat the pasta.
Add the pasta to the bowl of tomatoes and gently toss to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve.