Bon Appétit

How to Improve No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Hangry waits for no one. Especially not Kendra Vaculin, our associate food editor. In Speedy Does It, her monthly column, she’s sharing whoa-worthy dinners you can get on the table like *snaps fingers* that. In this edition, she tackles an almost no-cook pasta sauce.

Produce fanatics will say that if you have a peak-season tomato on your hands, you should do as little to it as possible. Sliced ​​thick on toast or cut into wedges in a Fancy and Beautiful Tomato Salad (not a joke, that’s the recipe name), juicy heirlooms requires little more than salt to totally sing.

So it makes sense that raw tomato sauces are highly appealing. Tomato season is fleeting, but pasta is forever. The best way to marry the two is with a sauce so simple, you don’t even have to cook it.

Right?

I’m not convinced. I love a straight-off-the-plant, sun-warmed tomato as much as the next gal, but there is a reason that tomato sauces are not usually speedy endeavors: Tomatoes like to be cooked. Heat concentrates their acidity and sweetness, whether you’re quickly bursting cherry tomatoes or spending an hour simmering marinara. Using tomato paste is a common work-around to achieve depth in a fraction of the time, but the extended cooking is simply bumped up the chain—the paste is concentrated before it ever reaches your shelf.

By contrast, no-cook sauces have none of the thickness and body that I want dressing pasta. Without any heat to tighten the juices and strengthen the flavor, a raw sauce is thin and watery (did you know tomatoes are roughly 94% water?), which, to me, sells tomatoes short.

So it is my opinion that the best no-cook tomato sauce is…a little bit cooked. Not a lot! Not even a medium amount. Erase any visions of laborious Sunday sauces from your mind. The aim is still speed and maintaining the glory of summer tomatoes—just with an amped up texture and flavor deserving of your best box of pasta.

To make this sauce, you’ll grate a few large tomatoes, breaking the flesh into small pieces and tossing the leftover skin. Those tomato bits need just 10 minutes in a hot pan to transform from liquidy and loose to just tight enough—less time than it takes to boil water for the pasta.

Then you’ll add a few power players to turn the whole thing deeply savored: butter, miso, and fish sauce, a magical trifecta of caramelized umami. Don’t be fooled by the sauce’s pale color. Thanks to the funky miso (a welcome addition to Italian-style sauces) and anchovy-based fish sauce, it’s a dish that packs a flavorful punch. Enough to convince even the biggest don’t-touch-the-tomatoes advocates.

Try it yourself:

Grated Tomato and Miso-Butter Pasta

This (almost) no-cook pasta is an ardent love letter to summer’s ripest tomatoes (and your box grater).

View Recipe

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