Turn a Pint of Tomatoes Into a No-Cook Pasta Sauce

Turn a Pint of Tomatoes Into a No-Cook Pasta Sauce
Photo: Claire Lower

You have probably heard that tomato season is almost over, though my own tomato plants do not seem to have gotten the memo. I have a lot green heirlooms still ripening on the vine, and my cherry tomato plant is thriving. I picked a pint of the things last Saturday, and I suspect I’ll get a couple more before the season is definitively, undeniably over.

I’ve been enjoying the little ruby-red spheres in salads, on toast, and all on their own without adornment, but sometimes all I want is quick recipe that will use them up all at once. Pasta, as it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for just such a recipe.

Much like Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini butter spaghetti and my cucumber pasta sauce, Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta helps me utilise the bounty of my garden while also eating pasta. All Ina does is win!

Ina’s recipe is very simple and makes use of four whole pints of tomatoes, but it does require a four-hour marination period (which admittedly results in a quite flavorful sauce). If you are the type of person who can remember to start marinating your sauce four hours before dinnertime, then by all means, make Queen Ina’s sauce. If you’re a forgetful person who never plans a meal before they’re nearly starving, you can get there a little faster by mashing your tomatoes a bit.

Your sauce won’t be as complex as the Ina sauce, but it will still be bursting with fresh-to-death, tomato-forward flavour. Will there be seeds? Yes, because removing the seeds from a tiny tomato is not only beyond tedious, it can be actively detrimental to the flavour of your sauce. (Not only is all the umami-packed flavour found in the gel that holds the seeds, but I think the slight amount of bitterness the seeds contribute is nice.)

Anyway. Instead of letting the juices slowly seep out of the tomatoes while their flesh is infused with olive oil, we’re going to get those juices flowing by force (with wooden spoon). Then, we’ll add a little salt, some olive oil, and some basil and garlic, and let them all get to know each other while we cook our pasta. Ina uses angel hair, but any pasta shape will do. You can also use any tomato in your garden — you just might have to chop it up a bit into bite-sized bits first. (Plus, you can use this recipe to bring summer flavour into your life all year-round — cherry tomatoes always taste pretty decent.)

No-Cook Mashed Tomato Sauce (adapted from Ina Garten’s Summer Garden Pasta)

Ingredients (makes two servings)

  • 300g of tomatoes, left whole if they’re tiny, but chopped into bite-sized pieces if they’re large
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 7 basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 2 small or 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • A pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 100-200g of pasta (Scale up to fit your needs.)
  • Parmesan (or some other hard, grating cheese) for serving

Instructions

Add the tomatoes and salt to a medium-sized, non-reactive bowl and gently mash with a wooden spoon or tomato masher. Don’t obliterate them, just mash enough to break them up a bit. Add the remaining ingredients (everything but the pasta), and give it a stir.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, reserving a little bit of the starch water before draining. Once cooked and drained, add to the sauce with a splash or two of the reserved water and toss to coat. Serve with cheese.

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