Taste of Tomatoes

What’s the secret to making tasty tomato sauce for your pasta? Tom Valenti, executive chef and owner of Ouest and Cesca, shares his secrets:

• Grilled Fresh Tomato-Mozzarella Bruchetta

Yield: 4 servings


1 loaf Italian bread (any style)

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes, sliced crosswise

1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced crosswise

5 to 6 large basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

Salt and pepper


Preheat one side of a charcoal or gas grill. Cut bread crosswise in thick slices. Lightly drizzle bread with olive oil. Grill until toasted. On one side of bread, alternately arrange tomato and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Close the lid of the grill; let stand for 3 minutes to warm the cheese and tomato. Remove and top with basil. Serve garnished with basil sprigs.

Note: If desired, double the basil and arrange half under the tomato and cheese before warming.

• Linguini with Fresh Florida Tomato Sauce

4 servings (5 cups sauce)


2 pounds fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or Macadamia nut oil

10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 clove)

Salt and pepper

1 pound dry linguini

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a large pot bring 2 gallons salted water to a boil. Cut tomato into 3/4-inch pieces (makes about 5 cups). In a large bowl toss tomatoes with oil, half of the basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook the linguini al dente following package directions. Drain reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Transfer linguini into a large bowl. Add reserved cooking liquid to the tomatoes. Spoon tomatoes over linguini. Top with cheese and remaining basil. Serve hot or cold.

• Florida Tomato Panzanella

Yield: 6 cups, 4 to 6 servings


2 pounds of fully ripened fresh Florida tomatoes

1/2 to 3/4 cup vinaigrette (recipe follows)

2 cups Italian bread cut in 1-inch cubes (1 to 3 days old)*

1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion


In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette; cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the bread cubes and onion; cover and set aside at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, serve garnished with fresh oregano and thyme sprigs.

Vinaigrette: In a small jar whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. Yield: 3/4 cup.

* If using fresh bread, toast, cool, then cut in cubes.

For more information, visit: www.floridatomatoes.org