The best tomato sauce of summer is not cooked; It’s crushed

Photography by Peden + Munk, food styling by Adriana Paschen, accessories styling by Ceci Garcia

Once summer arrives, the last thing you want to do is cook on a hot stove. It’s hard enough for your air conditioner to keep the place cool, and adding a pot of simmering tomato sauce into the mix only makes things worse. But just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you stop craving hot meals: it just means that cooking at home has to get faster and cooler, for you and your electric bill. Enter one of my favorite quick and comforting dinners: this no-cook pasta with creamy tomato sauce.

Before we dive into the sauce itself, I have a few answers for the skeptics reading: No, the sauce is not watery. And yes, it’s as rich and flavorful as any of its cooked tomato sauce counterparts. Here’s how to achieve it.

The base of any tomato sauce is…Of course-tomatoes. Here we use cherry tomatoes cut in half. (We’ll talk about that later.) Because the sauce won’t simmer and concentrate on your stovetop, I recommend using relatively sweet tomatoes, but even less than ideal tomatoes will do the trick. You’ll throw them into a large bowl and add a good bowl of olive oil, a generous amount of chopped garlic, fresh basil, and a few spoonfuls of Calabrian chili paste. (I love the latter ingredient for its tangy flavor, but you can swap about a teaspoon of red pepper flakes with a tablespoon of miso if needed.)

The key to this sauce is abundance. Remember: the sauce doesn’t cook at all, so you need to make sure each flavor is strong enough to shine through. I’m talking about seven cloves of minced raw garlic, over a cup of chopped basil and a half cup of olive oil. Yes, it may seem excessive, but trust the process.

Once all your ingredients have been thrown into a bowl, it’s time to turn them into sauce: Using clean hands (or a potato masher if you’re feeling squeamish), mash the tomatoes in the olive oil until they’re broken down into a fine, sauce-like pulp. (Yes, smash!) Because you took the time to cut the tomatoes in half, you can mash them without worrying about tomato juice dripping down your shirt. The goal is to break up the tomatoes enough so that their skins soften slightly and melt into the sauce; this process takes approximately 10 minutes. The juices will emulsify with the olive oil and the flavors of the garlic and basil will be highlighted. It’s a technique that’s both fun and practical; it’s playing with your food in a way that is fully justified. And while it may be tempting to get out your blender to speed up the work of the tomatoes: don’t do it. The sauce will become too liquid and will drown your pasta if you mix it.

Once your sauce base is crushed and ready, boil some pasta, drain it, then return it to the pot. (This is the only cooking you’ll need to do.) Add butter, Parmesan, and tomato mixture, and stir until sauce is creamy and emulsified. The butter and cheese will thicken all the tomato juice, turning it into a flavorful, bright sauce that coats the noodles perfectly. Serve with a little extra cheese and basil: dinner is done, your house is fresh, and everyone is happy.

No-cook pasta with cherry tomato sauce

Jesse Szewczyk

Originally appeared on Epicurious

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