Monday, July 2, 2012

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This is a classic from our childhood, modified just a little. The basic idea is that sometimes it's so hot that you don't want to cook any more than to boil some pasta, and if you have some tomatoes (regular or cherry or grape), you're most of the way there.  I made this on a hotter-than-hell type day just after I got done running a week long summer chamber music festival, and these were grape tomatoes leftover from our opening orientation crudite platter.  I had been so busy planning SICPP for so long (there's my excuse for the 2+ months since our last blog post!) that there was practically nothing else in my house to eat... this kind of turn-practically-nothing-into-something dish is my favorite way to cook.  Makes a great cold leftover meal too.
1 pound dried pasta (pieces work best)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, or 2 pounds regular tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
fresh basil (if possible), sliced into ribbons, OR fresh parsley (if you have it), chopped
1/2+ cup grated parmigiano (plus more for serving)
zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)


Set a big pot of water to boil for the pasta. Have 3 tablespoons of salt ready to throw in there when it comes to a boil.

In a microwave safe glass bowl large enough to fit a pound of cooked pasta, combine the good quality extra virgin olive oil and the garlic, which you can either press through a garlic press, chop small, or mash to a paste with some coarse salt and the side of your knife. Microwave for 1 minute.

If you're using grape or cherry tomatoes, all you have to do is slice them in half, and add them to the warm garlic oil. If you're using whole tomatoes, it's good to cut them in half around the equator and squeeze out the seeds before dicing them and adding them to the oil (if you want an extra layer of fussiness, as some in my family are inclined towards, you can peel big tomatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste, and the lemon zest and juice if you want it. If you have time, it's great to leave this to marinate ("to let the flavors marry" as our dad likes to say), but if you're in a hurry, it's not necessary.

Stir in the grated cheese (if you have the patience to use the fine grating side of your cheese grater, that's best for this, but microplane grating will do - just be sure that if you're measuring 1/2 cup, you pack it in to measure it (microplaning makes billowy piles of cheese that look like more than they really are).

Cook your pasta (salting the water once it comes to the boil), drain it well, and throw it into the bowl with the tomatoes/olive oil/cheese etc. Throw your fresh basil or parsley on top, toss around to combine, and serve, with extra cheese if you like.  Confession - I didn't have any fresh herbs, and was too tired to go to the store, and used a dried Italian Seasoning mix - it wasn't bad, but FRESH BASIL IS THE BEST, BELIEVE ME.

pasta with fresh tomato sauce

VARIATIONS: throw some broccoli florets or cut up green beans in with the pasta for the last 4-5 minutes of cooking; throw some green peas into the pasta water right before draining; add some chopped up leftover cooked chicken or some chickpeas for extra protein; when tossing in the herbs at the end, add some fresh arugula or spinach; add some drained capers and/or chopped briny olives, and swap the parmigiano for feta or ricotta salata.



  2. This recipe you posted is not from your childhood. In the recipe from your childhood, lemon juice is mandatory. Unless you want to use red wine vinegar. You MUST have an acid. Tomatoes in oil is too oily. I hope you got away with it.

    Guess who.

  3. Ha Dad! But my husband hates vinegar and lemon! And tomatoes are a little tiny bit acidic, so if there's the right proportion of tomato to oil, it's ok. It was a little oily... but it was good anyway. thank you for inventing such a delicious pasta sauce, Dad!