It’s so easy to take advantage of summer’s tomato bounty: The triple-S rotation of sandwiches, salads and soups will dispatch the beauties effectively and deliciously. And then there’s pasta. Even when the weather is so unbearably hot I resist bringing a pot of water to boil, I can’t keep tomatoes separate from noodles for too long; the marriage is too right.
Speed is key. I like my summertime pasta-with-tomatoes dishes to come together in as little time as possible, which cuts down on that boiling-pot steam but also keeps the tomatoes tasting bright and fresh. That’s where angel-hair pasta (capellini) comes in, cooking to tenderness in just a few minutes.
The sauce is little more than ripe tomatoes, chopped and cooked down with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar (just to bring out the best in the fruit). After it thickens – which can happen in as little as 15 minutes or as long as a half-hour, depending on the texture and juiciness of the fruit and the size of your saucepan – you stir in a fistful of chopped basil and a little butter, which pulls it all together.
That capellini comes with another bonus: When you finish cooking it in the sauce, it absorbs some, meaning you get fabulous tomato flavor in every bite.
Perfect Pomodoro Sauce With Capellini:
6 to 8 servings
Use the best tomatoes you can find, ripe and fragrant, and don’t skip the pat of butter, which helps pull everything together.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 5 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, stemmed, hulled and chopped (about 5 cups), including their juices
1 teaspoon sugar, plus more as needed
1 pound dried capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped, plus a few small whole leaves for optional garnish
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (may substitute non-dairy butter)
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic (to taste), salt and pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant but not burned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (If you burn the garlic, use a slotted spoon to scoop it out of the oil and proceed; if you leave it in, it will ruin the sauce.) Add the tomatoes and their juices and the sugar; cook until reduced and thickened, 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Taste, and add more salt and/or sugar, as needed.
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just under-done, about 1 minute before the cooking time recommended in the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to its (now empty) pot.
Check on your sauce. If you like it chunky, leave it as is. Or pulse it a few times using an immersion (stick) blender, to make it smoother. Stir in the chopped basil and butter.
Pour into the cooked capellini; use tongs to incorporate it and coat the pasta. Let the capellini finish cooking in the sauce over medium heat until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, and add a little more salt, as needed. If the sauce has become too thick, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water at a time until you like the consistency.
Serve right away, garnished with a few basil leaves, if desired.