What To Do With A Tasteless Tomato? Pasta Primavera!

by | Feb 11, 2009

It is no secret that I love summer tomatoes. A big, sweet brandywine in August with some olive oil and basil comes pretty close to my idea of perfect. So on Saturday I fell victim to one of the siren songs of late winter: the perfect looking, tasteless tomato.

I knew there was almost no chance of these tomatoes being good, but I told myself it was my duty to my readers to try all the produce at the market. So I bought one. But the truth is they looked beautiful and it had been months since I had a good market tomato–I wanted it so bad I couldn’t resist.

In my anticipation I sliced it open and took a bite first thing when I got home. Sure enough, it was flavorless. There was no way that I could eat this thing solo like I would have preferred, but I didn’t want to throw it away. Tasteless tomatoes aren’t any cheaper than good ones!

One great way to salvage a bad tomato is by cooking it up with a bunch of fresh vegetables, tossing it with olive oil and garlic and putting it on pasta. Voilà! Perfect late winter (early spring?) pasta primavera.

Late Winter Pasta Primavera


  • Small head romanesco broccoli or cauliflower, rinsed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 0.5 cup chickpeas
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 medium beefsteak tomato, diced into 0.5 inch cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 0.25 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 0.75 cup rigatoni or 0.5 cup penne pasta
  • Zest and juice of 0.5 Meyer lemon
  • 0.25 cup room temperature water
  • Excellent cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Boil 2 qts of water in a pot with 0.5 tsp salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 12 minutes for rigatoni).

Sprinkle diced tomato with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, set aside.

While the water is heating up, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan on medium heat until it swirls easily. Add shallot and cook until it becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Add romanesco and stir. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and cover, 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir and add 0.25 cup water and cover again. Allow to steam 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

When romanesco is brightly colored and becoming tender, add 1 more tbsp of olive oil and stir. Add chickpeas. After 2-3 minutes, clear a spot in the center of the pan and add garlic. When garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it with the rest of the vegetables. Be careful not to damage the chickpeas.

Add raw tomatoes, chopped parsley and lemon zest (all) and juice (to taste). Mix. Turn off heat and let stand at least one minute. Tomatoes should subtly wilt.

Add strained pasta to the vegetables in your pan. Toss mixture and adjust salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Have you ever bought a horrible tomato because it looked so beautiful?

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12 Responses to “What To Do With A Tasteless Tomato? Pasta Primavera!”

  1. Healthyliving says:

    Wow that looks good. I didn’t even read the post before wanting to comment about how good it looks; you must have blanched that romanesco, huh? It looks so green and fresh! I can’t wait to make this!!!

  2. Darya Pino says:

    @HealthylivingNot a blanch, quick steam.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What do you suggest to use if I don’t have access to the Romanesco? That green cauliflower thats being sold everywhere looks kind of similar…..would it work?

  4. Darya Pino says:

    @AnonAs noted in the recipe, cauliflower is an acceptable substitute. The flavor is a little different and it doesn’t look as cool, but it’s otherwise just as good. Same cooking instructions. Try to get the tender, baby cauliflower.

  5. Scott says:

    Quote of the day:”Tasteless tomatoes aren’t any cheaper than good ones!”-Darya PinoThats the problem with farmers markets and CSAs, is that they sell at high prices no matter what. At least I can get a cheap tasteless tomato at the grocery store. That is one issue I have especially with CSAs- they want to charge you the cash up front, then “share in the gain or loss of the season.” They got their money, so there is less incentive for them to solve a problem that will affect thier harvest. Any other opinions?(And just for the record, I don’t buy cheap tasteless tomatos from the grocery store, I’m just making a point)

  6. Car Blog says:

    No i have never bought a horrible tomato, nor do i plan to, LOL. Anyways the dish seems quite yum. I cant believe you can actually do so much out of so less.

  7. Matt Shook says:

    Yeah, the tomatoes I’ve thrown in my salads and burritos recently have been lacking a little bit in the flavor department. (I usually make up for it with herbs, spices, and hot sauce.) This reminds me of great looking (and feeling) avocados that are nasty and rank on the inside…such a disappointment. Hahaha…Wow, I really like the inclusion of chickpeas in this recipe…an super interesting addition. I like it. Great looking warm recipe with fresh ingredients that won’t weight you down…this blog always leaves me hungry.@ScottI disagree that farmers markets and CSA are ALWAYS more expensive. The markets and CSAs in my area are very competitive with the big grocery markets. Prices usually depend on the item in question and if there is an abundance of it on the market. Also, when it comes to freshness and quality the farmers markets/CSAs are the way to go. Once you take into account the fact your money is supporting local farmers, not a corporation shipping produce from Chile, it seems like those cheap tomatoes at the grocery store are not all that great of an investment…at least to me. 😉

  8. Greg says:

    Curious about what your guys’ opinion is about the nutritional quality of a flavorful tomato versus one that has no flavor; I would think the flavorless one would have less sugar, but might it also have fewer phyotchemical contents, maybe less lycopene or something?; I mean, whatever was giving it the flavor is no longer present, and it surely has some function in human body. Anyone?

  9. Darya Pino says:

    @ScottI agree with Matt. The produce at farmers markets is better quality and less expensive than equivalent items at Whole Foods. Produce at regular grocery stores like Vons, Safeway and Ralph’s cannot even be compared in price or quality they are so different.As for CSAs, you must remember that these farms are barely keeping their heads above water as is. It isn’t like they are trying to screw you. Their quality does not reflect how much money they think they could make off it or they would be selling different products. It is a fact that some seasons will produce more than others and it is completely fair for them to fix a price regardless of weather. The amount of work they do is the same regardless.Another thing to consider is that when you subscribe to a CSA you tend to get more than you would for the same price at the market.—–@Car BlogIt was yum, thanks!! —–@Matt One of my big things is only buying produce in season. I would argue that you get much more (nutritionally) out of practicing seasonal shopping than you do out of some more extreme food practices, like macrobiotic or raw diets. The key reasons are for variety, increased nutrients and simply wanting to eat more vegetables because they taste so good! It is hard to convince others that vegetables and fruits are delicious when you buy them out of season.And yes, the chickpeas add essential balance to this meal. Without them you would be hungry much sooner afterward. They are a great source of fiber, protein and minerals. They’re also yummy!!—–@GregGreat question!!! You are absolutely right, seasonal produce that tastes better has more nutrients. Sometimes the difference is quite large. Same goes for organic versus conventional foods. When produce is grown under proper conditions you are able to get their full nutritional benefit!

  10. Matt Shook says:

    @DaryaI’m actually a big proponent of in-season produce shopping…my love however is a tomato-fiend, she wants her tomatoes regardless of seasons. It’s awesome that following such practices is superior in the nutritional sense…I believe there is something unique and special about only eating what would naturally occur at that time. I get really excited when summer rolls around and the strawberries in my backyard are ripening to perfection…to me they’re the best in the world!It’s funny, I never considered a raw diet to be all that extreme…to me bypass surgery is extreme…it’s relative I suppose. I completely agree that in-season (organic locally grown) produce would be the best way to introduce or persuade others that eating more fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be a painful endeavor. I think you’re on to something here…I would consider myself a chickpea enthusiast. I love using them in homemade hummus, salads, and Indian-style dishes…I don’t know why it never crossed my mind to use them in a pasta dish. Probably because when I think of chickpeas I think of the Middle Eastern and Indian flavors, not Mediterranean…but I can tell there is some good synergy in this dish. I’ll have to try it out for myself.

  11. Darya Pino says:

    @MattAin’t nothin’ wrong with bein’ a tomato fiend ;)Beautiful strawberries!!!!!!!! I’m so jealous!!

  12. Karin says:

    I can’t get over how yummy the romanesco/pasta combo looks!

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