Dinner in a Hurry: Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

By , Contributor

A lot of us get home from work at the end of the day with not enough time, energy or imagination to get something tasty on the table for dinner. Now that spring is here and the markets are beckoning with fresh produce (or maybe you're looking forward to using your own home-grown veggies and herbs this summer), solving the dinner problem quickly doesn't have to mean sacrificing taste or quality.

tomatoes-basil.jpgIt helps to keep your pantry stocked with staples; you shouldn't ever be without a few boxes of pasta, some good quality olive oil, and a decent bottle of balsamic vinegar. With those few items (and perhaps a hunk of imported Parmigiano-Reggiano - please don't ever buy grated cheese in a jar) and the addition of a few fresh vegetables, a quick and delicious meal is never very far away.

This uncooked pasta sauce requires only minutes of prep time and is versatile to boot, as you'll see. It's quick enough for even the busiest of evenings, and yet nice enough to serve guests. It's got enough good stuff in it to qualify as a full meal on its own, or you can serve it with a nice green salad and a crusty loaf of bread.

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Basil and Fresh Mozzarella

  • 2 or 3 large, ripe fresh tomatoes, or 7 or 8 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (if you'd rather not perfume your evening with garlic, you can omit it)
  • ½ cup (packed) shredded basil leaves
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ lb. pasta (let your preference be your guide; I like bow-tie pasta here, or a small tube like penne)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Core and chop the tomatoes into roughly ¼ - ½ inch dice.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the pasta and the mozzarella; season to taste with salt and pepper and let stand. You can prep this and then boil your pasta and assemble the dish, or you can prepare it a bit ahead of time and let it stand. The longer it stands, the more fully the flavors will develop.

  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and combine gently with the sauce. Add the mozzarella and combine again. Serve.

The sauce by itself makes a wonderful topping for slices of toasted French bread (and now you know how to make a nice bruschetta, which is wonderful as a light lunch, an appetizer, or as an accompaniment to before-dinner drinks). I've also served small portions of the sauce as a topping for grilled tuna or swordfish. When the tomatoes are perfectly ripe, this dish just tastes of summer.

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Lisa McKay is the executive editor at The Morton Report.

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