The Little Island Kitchen – Heirloom Tomatoes

In food, as in fashion, sometimes less is more. I’m not referring to tiny, mean little plates that leave you begging for more. I’m talking about pared down, simple flavours that celebrate the natural essence of ingredients. Tomatoes are a perfect example of this principle. I can hardly think of a truer taste of summer than a sun-warmed tomato fresh from the vine.

So many farms on PEI grow gorgeous tomatoes, and I get mine from Amy Smith and Verena Varga at Heartbeet Organics. They grow over 40 varieties and host a fantastic Tomato Fest in September to celebrate the harvest and expand public knowledge about all the possibilities of preparing tomatoes.

When it comes to cooking with tomatoes, for me, it’s hard to avoid thinking of Italy. Italy has mastered the art of creating amazing dishes with few and simple flavours. They don’t complicate things and know how bring out the best in their ingredients, tomatoes being perhaps the most ubiquitous. And though tomatoes are used all over the globe, Italian flavours are the truest celebration of their unctuous sweetness without too much fuss.

When cooked, heirloom tomatoes have a distinct and rich flavour that is hard to beat. Slow cooking them allows the water to evaporate and all the sweetness to concentrate. None of that watery, acidic blandness here! Hold on to these last moments of summer with these sunny tomato dishes.


Proper Spaghetti Pomodoro (serves 4 as a main course)

6 tbsp olive oil
3 small onions, minced
1 tsp chilli flakes
6 cloves garlic, minced (about 3-4 tbsp)
8 cups blended heirloom tomatoes
2 tbsp finely chopped basil (or 1 tsp dried)
4 portions spaghetti
1 cup pasta water
2 tbsp salted butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large, wide-bottomed pan on low-medium heat, add olive oil and onion, and sweat until translucent and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Then tip in the chilli flakes and dried basil (if not using fresh) and cook for one minute more.

Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, making sure it doesn’t burn, and then add in the tomato purée and stir. Increase heat to medium-high.

Stir frequently as the sauce condenses and the liquid evaporates, about 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to a paste-like texture. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions until about 2 minutes before it is finished cooking (on the still underdone side of al dente as it will finish cooking in the sauce). Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Put the pan of sauce back on high heat and gradually add the pasta water, stirring to incorporate.

Add the almost-cooked pasta to the saucepan and stir to coat with the sauce and finish cooking, about 2 minutes. Test a strand to check.

Finish by stirring in the butter to add a lush creaminess, the basil for vibrant green freshness, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper to top it all off.

Pasta water should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea. This will give you perfectly seasoned pasta and sauce without risking over-salting at the end. Also, cheese isn’t necessary for this dish, but do feel free to add some of your favourite hard Italian cheese, finely grated, if the mood strikes.

Recipe created by Paige Matthie.


Cherry Tomato Confit

8 cups cherry tomatoes
Olive oil (for drizzling and topping up)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed
4 cloves garlic, skins on
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread tomatoes out on a baking tray in an even layer, or spread over two if one is too tight.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the rosemary, oregano, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and toss around to coat the tomatoes evenly.

Slow roast in the oven for about 50 minutes to an hour until the skins have wrinkled and the tomatoes have softened slightly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Peel the skins off the garlic and return to the tomatoes and herbs. Tip everything into a serving dish if using immediately, or into a jar or storage container if keeping for later.

Serving suggestions: Use on garlic toasts, on pasta, in salads, with grilled meats or cheese like halloumi, or blend and add a bit of vegetable stock to use as a gorgeous summery soup.

Recipe created by Paige Matthie.