The glorious late summer days of August are often spent sucking down popsicles and reveling in the last few weeks of prime summer produce: plump, juicy tomatoes; yellow and green squash; and sheaves of sweet yellow corn. These searingly hot days always manage to seem endless, in the way we hate in the moment but invariably long for when we’re deep into January. But the upside remains self-evident: a seemingly never-ending bounty of fruits and vegetables.
Related Reading: 21 Pasta Sauces That Hold the Tomatoes
So for anyone who’s somehow gathered a large basket of tomatoes—and simply can’t turn on the oven—you’ll want to look to Sheela Prakash’s recipe for a no-cook summer tomato pasta, found in her new cookbook “Mediterranean Every Day.” Sheela, who moonlights as a registered dietician as well as a food writer and recipe developer, simply loves Italy. As a student, she studied in Florence, then spent a summer interning at a farm in Siena before obtaining a master’s degree in food culture and communications in Northern Italy. So it should come as no surprise that Sheela has since compiled her cookbook with over 75 Mediterranean-inspired recipes that highlight seasonal produce.
Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food, $26.99 on Amazon
Enjoy the likes of smoky white bean hummus, lentil fritters with herbed yogurt dip, and wedges of chocolate olive oil cake. The recipes here are not so complicated that they couldn’t be made on a weeknight, but still thrilling enough to be the centerpiece at a gathering or party. Along with the recipes, Sheela also teaches readers how to properly stock a pantry—a topical must for home cooks everywhere during quarantine.
OXO Good Grips Box Grater, $19.99 on Amazon
But back to that no-cook tomato pasta, the recipe for which can be found below. It really is a no-cook situation (save for the boiling of pasta, of course), and the only other work you’ll need to do is arm yourself with some sweet tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata. Simply grate garlic and the tomatoes against a box grater, discarding any flattened and tough skin. Whisk the chopped basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper into the mixture, then let it rest while the pasta cooks. Once the pasta is ready to cook, just plop it straight into the tomatoes and toss well. Grate shreds of ricotta salata on top (or if you’ve got parmesan, that’ll work just as well), and serve.
No-Cook Summer Tomato Pasta Recipe
When I was living and working on a farm in Tuscany the summer after I graduated college, my teacher, like so many Italians, loved to talk about food. One afternoon, instead of following her usual lesson plan, she held an impromptu cooking class. I can’t remember everything we made, but I’ll never forget this pasta. She ingeniously rubbed raw cloves of garlic on the inside of a large bowl—a technique that hails from the Southern region of Puglia, where she was from—then dumped hot pasta into it, along with lots of fresh tomatoes and basil. The ingredients took hold of the garlic juices on the bowl to create a bright pasta dish that had just the right amount of seasoning. Rather than the piercing bite of raw garlic, the garlic was mellow and beautifully blended.
Make this in late summer, when tomatoes are at their absolute sweetest and juiciest. Grating them on a box grater results in a loose, chunky sauce for the orecchiette cups to hold (though other short pasta shapes, such as gemelli and fusilli, work great, too). Oh, and don’t bother washing the grater right away. You’ll use it to grate salty ricotta salata cheese over the top of each bowl, which adds a bit of a sharp kick to every bite.
No-Cook Summer Tomato Pasta
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 1 1/2 pounds (680 g) plum tomatoes, or Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup (10 g) loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces (340 g) orecchiette, or other short pasta
- 2 ounces (55 g) ricotta salata cheese
- Rub the garlic clove halves vigorously all over the inside of a large bowl.
- Set a box grater over the garlic-rubbed bowl and use the side with the large holes to grate the tomatoes into the bowl. Discard the flattened skin and stem left behind. Gently stir in the basil, olive oil, salt, and several grinds of black pepper; mix well. Let the mixture marinate while you cook the pasta.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain the pasta, then transfer it to the bowl of tomatoes. Toss well to combine.
- Using the large holes of the box grater, grate ricotta salata over the pasta before serving.
Header image courtesy of "Mediterranean Every Day."