Tomato Pasta

I know it sometimes seems like I don’t eat dinner. I do, it just usually isn’t that interesting.

I do what most of you probably do for dinner: throw together a sandwich, a salad, some pasta—pretty basic stuff. I save my energy for special occasion foods, the kind of foods I make to share with friends, or as special treats for myself, or that require a Sunday afternoon to prepare (let’s face it, nobody is making elderflower fritters after work).  But then sometimes a simple dinner recipe surfaces that I need to share, and it allows me to prove that I actually do eat dinner. I do!

I came across this pasta on one of my trips down the internet rabbit hole. I somehow ended up on Michael Ruhlman’s site reading about this dish and being prime tomato season, I wanted to share it with all of you. Maybe you already make it and have good suggestions for additions.
Not only is this easy to prepare, it is fun. It is efficient in a way that I find extremely satisfying. Serve it with some crusty bread and a green salad and you will be really pleased with yourself.

Tomato Water Pasta (adapted from Michael Ruhlman- there is a video of him making it!)

  • 5 ripe tomatoes, large dice
  • 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • a good handful of basil, you want a generous cup after cutting it into ribbons
  • olive oil
  • 3 ounces butter, cut into three chunks

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the salt and set aside. This will allow the tomatoes to release their juices.

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta.

Smash and chop the garlic.

Cut the basil into ribbons or roughly chop it.  Take a pinch of basil and add it to the tomatoes to season the tomato water.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta.

While pasta is cooking, heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat, add the garlic and cook it till it is just beginning to brown around the edges and soften, a couple minutes.

Working quickly, pour the tomatoes into a strainer or colander set over the pan of garlic on the stove. Allow all of the tomato water to drain into the hot pan and then set the strainer with the tomatoes back into the bowl so they don’t drip on the counter. Swirl the sauce to bring it to a simmer.  Add the butter while continuing to swirl or stir the sauce, keep the sauce moving until all of the butter has melted.  Add the cooked  and drained pasta, toss to coat evenly with the sauce.  Add the basil and tomatoes and toss well to combine. Serve!

33 comments to “Tomato Pasta”

  1. what a great way to capture the last dazzle of summer bounty.

  2. Too funny – I made a very similar dish last night (and many other nights during tomato season), sans recipe/measurements of course. So simple, easy to put together, fresh, and tasty!

  3. I love how simple this is but I bet it captures the tastes of summer perfectly.

  4. …Oh my. *swoons* This is so, simply, perfect! Thank you!

    …And your photos? Actually made me want to grab a fork and start swirling! ;o)

    …Blessings :o)

  5. HA! I totally don’t do dinner. Ever. All my friends always complain that all I post are recipes for snacks or desserts. This bowl of pasta though is something I can get down with–it’s simple, easy and can be thrown together in a few minutes.

  6. I’ve been doing a variation of this for thirty years. I add some feta to the cut up tomatoes. Sometimes I add some sauteed shrimp to the final product.

  7. You really can’t go wrong with fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic. So simple and yet so good. And I laughed out loud at your line about no one making elderflower fritters after work — wish I did!! :)

  8. Pshhh I totally make elderflower fritters after work.

  9. I make a similar pasta but I add a few glugs of white wine vinegar with the olive oil. It’s one of my favourites, and super easy!

  10. Hooray for tomato season! I’ve been enjoying Smitten Kitchen Deb’s naked tomato sauce. It’s amazing how much butter adds to a simple pasta dish. I’m eager to try this one now! I especially like the special attention given to keeping a clean counter — how thoughtful of you :-)

  11. Tim, I’ve been making a version of this for years that adds boccocini (or other fresh mozzarella cut to bite size) at the last minute, with the warm pasta just softening it. I’ll admit that my version doesn’t have the silky butter, which I suspect is the coup of your version. Next time, I try both!

    We went from cold summer weather to suddenly very hot, which is good news for the 14 tomato plants in our garden which until this week sat green and hard. All of the sudden, red globes of all sizes and varieties are everywhere! Wish I could share with you from Oregon!

  12. Sivan Harlap says:

    September 8th, 2011 at 7:01 am

    that sounds awesome! i do something very similar, but my sauce is totally raw and sans butter. i mince and then mash the raw garlic cloves into a paste and let that sit with tomatoes, salt, olive oil, basil, lemon zest and a little lemon juice for a good half hour. lately i have been using quinoa pasta and actually like the texture better than regular pasta! perfect for a hot summer day at the peak of tomato season! juts had a thought: black garlic would look and taste amazing in this dish!

  13. Sivan Harlap says:

    September 8th, 2011 at 7:02 am

    ps, you make the prettiest food. xx

  14. simple dinners like this are often the best. i made a similar sauce the other night. following mark bittman’s instructions, i just throw chopped and mixed tomatoes, basil, sea salt, 2 whole cloves or garlic and lots of olive oil in a bowl. i let it sit for about 30 minutes, made pasta, removed the garlic cloves from the sauce and then assembled. it was perfect.

    i know what you mean when you say that it seems as if you don’t eat dinner. i find dessert recipes and recipes that involve a lot of elbow grease always the most interesting to write about. one can only write so much about bread, cheese, sliced meats, and eggs.

  15. This is exactly what I love to prepare as well… fresh ingredients that are simply presented and have their flavors foremost in the dish. Awesome!

  16. I make something similar without the butter. Damn, I’m trying it with the butter. Tonight. Thanks for the idea!

  17. Delicious. A new recipe for pasta is always appreciated.

  18. I’m quite similar in my cooking/baking habits and I actually quite appreciate you expressing it here in a succinct way.
    Creating epic meals each and every weeknight does not happen in my kitchen! I love food and appreciate quality but I eat more than my fair share of cereal, sandwiches and salads, saving myself for a sunday afternoon of baking.

    This is EXACTLY my kind of weeknight meal. A simple, lovely pasta dish that doesn’t take much effort but tastes like it did. Flavour pow! right here.

  19. After learning about basil-infused olive oil to spruce up pasta, I’m loving this idea of tomato water. Somehow, using flavored water just seems easier than flavoring oil, doesn’t it?

    Even if it isn’t true. But your pictures – I’m only recently started eating tomatoes, but your pictures are making me drool.

  20. This is a fabulous looking meal. Pasta perfection.

  21. Hey — I love the tomato water technique! I used it to make a pasta this weekend with peas, Pecorino and bacon — perfect for late summer.

  22. Just finished this for dinner tonight. Simply put, it was absolutely A-MAZ-ING. Totally wonderful. I love how completely simple the recipe is and how robust the fresh flavors are. The garlic and basil shine and the butter adds just the right touch of richness. I used basil and big, juicy tomatoes fresh from my garden. Perfect. I have just now deemed this my “Best Summer Pasta… Ever” recipe. Thank you for sharing!!!

  23. yay, Brooke! I’m so glad you liked it, too.

  24. Im sure someone’s already said this, but I’d throw in some kalamata olives and maybe some torn fresh mozzarella…of course, I love the addition of butter. Butter makes it all better!

  25. I will think of this all day and make it for dinner tonight. Sounds so good.

  26. This is how we were meant to eat. This is just how it’s meant to be! Thank you for sharing!

  27. This is what Italians call “Spaghetti alla Checa”–tho’ that’s totally raw sauce–this is a step above–I will try it tonight.

  28. Wow, I misspelled that–it’s alla checca. Buon appetito!

  29. Made this tonight and oh my! Simple perfection!

  30. Oh my. This looks like the perfect simple fresh dinner. Thank you for inspiring!

  31. Simple, fresh, colorful… perfect!
    Maybe you don’t eat dinners, but you do know how to make them :)
    Greetings from Poland.

  32. So light and fresh! I am going to cook this on my meatless Mondays.

  33. Wow,its so easy to prepare,i am goin to try it for sure. :-)

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