Tomato Basil Garlic Pasta with a Tomato-Butter sauce, via my iPhone; and frankly, I’m not happy with the quality, but you will get the idea of the tomato water use; next time back to the HD camera (and now, back to the gym).
When I was courting Donna in southern Florida more than 20 years ago, I made a pasta dish of nothing more than tomato, basil, garlic and butter that we both loved for its simplicity and big garlicky flavor. It’s still a weekday staple for us, especially at the end of summer when basil and fat tomatoes are plentiful. (Part of the original plan was to load Donna with so much garlic that she would ooze it from her pores the following day to keep other suitors away—so there is a lot of garlic. If you are already a couple, you can saute the garlic a little more aggressively to tone it down.)
I used to toss all the ingredients together but never really liked the way the tomato water would pool at the bottom of the bowl. So, how to get all that tomatoey goodness to adhere to the pasta? Butter! First you separate the water from the tomatoes by salting it 20 or 30 minutes ahead of time, to draw the water out. Then, you mount butter into that tomato water to create a lovely sauce that coats the pasta. All that’s left is to garnish it with the drained tomatoes and basil.
Last Thursday, just before getting dinner on the table for the family, I handed Donna my iPhone and asked her to film me while I finished the dish—crude, unpolished, and off-the-cuff, but it does show how the sauce comes together. The tomato-water-butter-sauce, is a great general technique. This sauce would be delicious on poached Romaine, any kind of pasta, or even diced potato or crispy homemade croutons. The dish is soft, so it’s always a good idea to serve the below pasta with something crunchy, such as a toasted baguette.
The sauce that coats the pasta has the perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and richness. I could well owe my marriage to this highly recommended dish.
Spaghetti with Tomato, Basil and Garlic
4 ripe tomatoes, large dice
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt
12 ounces spaghetti or any pasta you like
10 cloves garlic
a good handful of basil (you’ll want about a cup after you’ve cut it to ribbons)
olive oil as needed
3 ounces butter, cut into three chunks
1. Season the tomatoes with the salt and toss them well.
2. Put a big pot of water on to boil.
3. Smash the garlic with the flat side of a knife, give it all a few rough chops with the knife and set them a side in a small bowl.
4. Cut the basil into ribbons or roughly chop it. Take a pinch of this basil and chop it finely and add it to the tomatoes to season the water.
5. Cook your pasta, drain it, put it back in the pot, oil the pasta to keep it from sticking to itself. (If your water isn’t boiling yet, get your garlic cooking, step 6.)
6. Heat a teaspoon or two 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. Give it a pinch of salt if you wish.
7. Pour the tomatoes into a strainer or colander over the garlic. Set the strainer with the tomatoes into the bowl so they don’t drip on the counter, and 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 the butter is melted. Add the pasta, toss and serve to coat the pasta evenly. Divide the pasta among four bowls, top with the tomatoes and basil.