Summer cooking doesn’t get any easier – or more delicious – than this.
This is one of my mom’s pasta sauce recipes, one that she made only in the late days of Summer, when perfectly ripened tomatoes and sweet basil were plentiful. It’s one of those perfect summer meals.
It’s fast – you can cook the sauce in the time it takes to cook the noodles.
It’s easy – if you can run several cloves of garlic through a press, you’ve got this covered!
It’s light and oh-so-fresh tasting – important in these days of heat and humidity.
And there’s only a few ingredients – because when you have summer tomatoes and fresh basil, you don’t need much else!
There’s just one caveat, though – this sublime simplicity only works when you use fresh ingredients. Mince real garlic cloves; don’t use jarred. Use fresh basil, not dried. Squeeze lemon juice from a lemon, not a bottle. And of course, use the best tomatoes you can find. Canned tomatoes won’t cut it here – nor will mealy, tasteless winter tomatoes. (This is one dish that must be made in summer!) I love using cherry tomatoes; grape tomatoes could also be used. My mom would chop two vine-ripe tomatoes or three roma tomatoes.
My mom added shredded chicken to her pasta sauce (which, obviously, I leave out). I think it tastes wonderful with just tomatoes and basil!
Use the thinnest pasta you can find (angel hair/cappellini works well). And don’t worry about serving the pasta piping hot. It actually tastes better warm or room temperature – especially in the sultry August heat! Sometimes I’ll make the sauce and mix it with cooked quinoa instead of pasta. In that case I like adding some small cubes of tofu. It doesn’t alter the taste; just adds a creamy mouthfeel and gives the quinoa a little more heft and texture, which I think quinoa often needs.
Gluten-free people: Make sure you choose a gluten-free pasta, or go with the quinoa option.
Ingredients for Cherry Tomato and Basil Pasta (Or Quinoa) in Garlicky White Wine Sauce:
8 Ounces Uncooked Angel Hair or Cappellini Pasta (1/2 Box), OR 3/4 cup Uncooked Quinoa
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Large Garlic Cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/4+ Cup Fresh Basil, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper To Taste
1 Tablespoon Capers (Nice, but not necessary)
8 Oz. Extra-Firm Tofu (1/2 of 16 oz. package); drained and cubed (Optional – For quinoa only)
Vegan Parmesan Cheese (Optional)
Directions for Cherry Tomato and Basil Pasta (Or Quinoa) in Garlicky White Wine Sauce:
Cook the pasta or quinoa according to package directions.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes or so, until the garlic begins to brown.
CAREFULLY, add the wine, because the oil will splatter! You may want to remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a second before you add the wine!
Add the tomatoes and stir so that they are coated with the garlic/olive oil/wine mixture. Add the capers if you are using capers.
If using tofu, add the tofu cubes and stir to coat.
Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft (the skins will become a bit wrinkly) and the liquid has reduced by about half.
Pour the sauce over the pasta or quinoa and toss. Add the fresh basil and toss again.
Quinoa, more so than pasta, often benefits from a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice. Add the lemon juice at the same time as the basil and toss again. For pasta, serve with a small wedge of the lemon on the plate.
Add salt (you’ll need more salt with quinoa than with pasta), lots of freshly ground pepper to taste, and vegan Parmesan cheese if desired.
Again, if you don’t have cherry tomatoes, feel free to use a pint of grape tomatoes, or 2-3 large Roma tomatoes, or 2 large vine ripe tomatoes. This is a recipe where you needn’t be too concerned about exact quantities. If undecided, err on the side of a little more than you think you need, rather than the side of caution. Just keep in mind this is a white wine-garlic sauce with tomatoes, not a tomato sauce with white wine and garlic.
The above note also applies to basil. A typical plastic container from the supermarket will usually net about 1/4 cup, once the basil is chopped. However, if you have a living basil plant, cutting a few extra leaves will likely improve things!
Choose a neutral, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, or an unoaked Chardonnay. You don’t want anything to oaky (most Chardonnays) or too fruity (most Pinot Grigios).
For vegan Parmesan cheese, I like the GoVeggie! Brand – the taste and texture is almost identical to that dry powdery Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the green cardboard containers. (Yeah, Kraft is not the best Parmesan cheese in the world, but it’s what I grew up eating as a Gen-X’r, so it has a special place in my heart.) Follow Your Heart also makes several excellent Parmesan Cheese substitutes that are more realistically suited to cheese snobs – both grated and shreds. (If you’re in Charlotte, NC, you can find both GoVeggie! and Follow Your Heart Parmesan Cheeses at Whole Foods and Earth Fare.)