No-Cook Tomato Sauce Pasta For The Scorching Days of Summer

Beat the heat with this fresh, no-cook tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella over pasta.
Beat the heat with this fresh, no-cook tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella over pasta.

When it’s way too hot to contemplate cooking most anything, and your gardening-goddess friend Annie gifts you a bushel of home-grown tomatoes, what do you do?

You make “No-Cook Tomato Sauce Pasta.” And thank the stars that you did.

This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine. But I tweaked it a little by making enough sauce to coat not 12 ounces of spaghetti, but 1 pound, so it can serve four easily. I also added in a generous handful of diced whole-milk mozzarella to go with all the fresh, torn basil leaves.

Thanks to my friend Annie with the super green thumb.
Thanks to my friend Annie with the super green thumb.

The result is a fresh, bright tasting pasta that comes together in a cinch and tastes every bit like a Caprese salad with noodles.

Unlike the jammy, cooked-down, muddled flavor of a long-simmered tomato sauce, this no-cook version maintains that lively, fruity acidity of peak summer tomatoes in all their glory.

To make the sauce, use one kind of tomatoes or a mix of varieties and colors like I did, including orange, green, yellow, and red. The recipe instructs to first squeeze out the seeds and jelly from the tomatoes to lessen any bitterness. Don’t discard this; just strain this mixture to separate the juice from the seeds. What you’re left with is an astoundingly intense tasting fresh tomato water that’s incredible sipped all on its own over ice. Or add a splash of vodka and enjoy it as a simple cocktail.

Mix the tomatoes in a big bowl with grated garlic, butter, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan. Let this mixture sit out on the counter for 30 minutes to a few hours to allow flavors to meld and juices to exude.

A sludgy mix of mashed fresh tomatoes with olive oil, butter, garlic, vinegar and Parmesan.
A sludgy mix of mashed fresh tomatoes with olive oil, butter, garlic, vinegar and Parmesan.

When ready to eat, stir the mozzarella cubes into the sauce, if using. Cook your pasta, then immediately transfer the noodles to the bowl of sauce, and mix well. The mozzarella doesn’t melt, but remain soft, supple and creamy little nuggets that surprise in every mouthful.

This dish really plays up the vivacious taste of just-picked tomatoes. And just think, all it takes is boiling a pot of water on the stovetop for a few minutes to enjoy it.

A pasta with the true, vital taste of fresh-picked tomatoes.
A pasta with the true, vital taste of fresh-picked tomatoes.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce Pasta

(Serves 4)

2 pounds tomatoes, any shape (larger than cherry), preferably slightly overripe so they feel like water balloons

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

6 ounces finely grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 cups)

Kosher salt

1 heaping cup diced whole-milk mozzarella (optional)

16 ounces strand pasta such as bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine

1 1/2 cups basil leaves, torn

Cut tomatoes in half through the equator (in other words, not through the core, but across the midline). Hold halves in your palms and gently squeeze over a bowl to squeeze out seeds and surrounding juice/jelly. (Don’t discard the juice and seeds. See suggestion in post above.)

Casually and imperfectly chop seed tomatoes so you have some pieces that are very small and some pieces that are a bit larger, but everything should be smaller than an acorn.

Transfer tomatoes to a large bowl and mash mixture several times with the back of a large spoon or potato masher to release more juices (you can also just use your hands).

Fine grate garlic cloves into bowl with tomatoes with a microplane or fine grater, then add butter, red wine vinegar, red pepper, olive oil and half of the Parmesan. Season with several pinches of salt, then toss with a large spoon to combine.

Cover bowl with plastic and let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 5 hours. This lets the flavors marry and tomato juices exude (because we want a saucy pasta).

When you’re ready to eat, stir the mozzarella, if using, into the tomato sauce. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (4- to 6-quart) and add a small fistful of salt. Cook the pasta until al dente.

As soon as the pasta is ready, use tongs to transfer noodles to bowl with tomatoes, and toss quickly to mix everything together thoroughly. You want the hot pasta to melt the Parmesan and butter, which will slightly thicken the sauce.

Taste pasta and season with more salt, if needed, then toss in the torn basil.

Using tongs, portion pasta into shallow bowls, being sure to spoon over plenty of tomatoes and juices over each serving.

Top with remaining Parmesan, then drizzle with oil, and serve.

Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, July 2017

More Ways to Enjoy Fresh Summer Tomatoes: Cold Udon with Fresh Tomatoes

And: Quick-Pickled Grape Tomatoes on Ricotta Toast

And: Cherry Tomato & Tofu Salad

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