While most people think of slow-cooked, long-simmered sauces when they hear "spaghetti and tomato," I think of summer and simplicity, of taking unbelievably good tomatoes, chopping them up with basil, garlic and olive oil, and tossing them with hot pasta. In other words, doing almost no cooking at all, a bit like a pasta version of bruschetta.
That's also the idea with this Alice Waters recipe, but she adds a little more panache to the proceedings with a vinegar-garlic paste in a mortar and pestle that adds a garlicky, tart base to deepen the flavor and accentuate the tomatoes.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Waters consistently finds ways to improve uncomplicated recipes without losing their spirit of simplicity; here the garlic-vinegar mixture plays the role of acid in this tomato "vinaigrette" and helps complement the same acidity in the tomatoes—part of what makes them taste so excellent.
What Worked: The speed, simplicity, and flavors. As she often does, Waters uses simple technique to great effect.
What Didn't: I couldn't find farro pasta which was originally called for in the recipe, but I followed this Serious Eats Talk thread and wound up with some excellent whole wheat linguine from Whole Foods.
Suggested Tweaks: Adding chunks of fresh mozzarella would take this pasta to the next level. I would also happily have doubled the amount of ingredients for the tomato vinaigrette in this recipe, and will probably next time: that, or use half the pasta.
Adapted from Wall Street Journal.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes , cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
- 1 pound farro pasta or whole-wheat long pasta
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
In a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic with a good pinch of salt and pound into a smooth paste. Stir in the vinegar.
Combine the garlic-vinegar mixture with the chopped tomatoes and half the basil. Cover and marinate for 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining well.
Season the tomatoes with salt to taste, then add the oil. Add the hot cooked pasta and toss well to combine. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with the pasta cooking water and more oil (if desired); season to taste with salt and perhaps a splash of vinegar.
Add the remaining basil leaves and serve warm.