Last summer, I really got into using up my prized heirloom and cherry tomatoes by turning them into simple pasta dinners. Tomatoes, garlic, Parm, basil, and pasta are quite the team of ingredients, let me tell you. One day, I decided not to cook the tomatoes—I was in awe of how sweet and flavorful they were on their own. Why cook something that is perfect as is? This led me to the groundbreaking realization that no-cook tomato sauce is the pasta sauce of the summer.
Everybody can relate to that feeling in the heat of the summer when it’s simply too hot to cook. Sure, you still have to turn the stove on to cook the pasta, but the no-cook sauce cuts down on the time spent hunched over the hot stove.
The Best Tomatoes for No-Cook Pasta
This no-cook method allows the heat from the cooked pasta to gently warm the tomatoes without losing their fresh, raw, straight-from-the-garden flavor. You can opt to use large heirloom tomatoes or you can mix in some halved cherry tomatoes if that’s what you have. Just make sure that they’re super ripe—they shouldn’t be tough, firm, or pale on the inside.
It’s important to squeeze out the watery guts before you mash the tomatoes to prevent making an overly runny or watery sauce. Once you’ve combined all the ingredients, let it sit covered in the fridge for up to 8 hours. The longer it sits, the more time the flavors will have to get to know each other. If you can remember, make the sauce in the morning and bring it all together for dinner. However, if 15 minutes is all you have, that’s a-ok.
Wait, Then Taste
After the sauce has had time to sit, give it a taste. Ripe tomatoes vary in sweetness and acidity, so you may want to adjust with more honey, balsamic vinegar, or fresh lemon juice, as needed. If you want to amp up this sauce with some brinier, salty ingredients like minced anchovies, capers, or chopped olives, you certainly can do so, but it’s not necessary.
Don’t worry about the chunks of butter—once the cooked pasta is tossed in, the butter will melt and create a luscious, glossy sauce.
Make Only As Much As You’ll Eat
This pasta sauce is not made to be reheated, so I’d recommend making only as much as you plan to eat—trust me, finishing off your plate won’t be an issue. Feel free to halve or double this recipe as needed. Whatever you do, just prepare to make this again and again and again. It’s that good.
No-Cook Recipes Because it’s So Hot Outside
- Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil
- Tomato, Onion, Avocado Salad
- Avocado Lettuce Tomato Sandwich
- Caprese Salad With Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella
- Panzanella Bread Salad
Prepare the tomatoes:
Gently squeeze each tomato half to release any watery guts and seeds into a bowl and discard. Chop the tomato flesh into 1-inch pieces and add them into a large bowl. Mash with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher, or use your hands to break down the tomatoes. Everything should be smaller than a nickel.
Add the remaining ingredients:
Add the garlic, Parmesan, butter, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, balsamic vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Toss to combine.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta:
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Use tongs or a spider to transfer the cooked pasta directly into the bowl with tomatoes and toss. It’s okay if some of the pasta water is added—this will help melt the butter and cheese.
Taste the pasta and season with more salt and black pepper, if needed. Gently mix in the basil.
Transfer the pasta into bowls, spooning any residual sauce over it. Garnish with more Parmesan and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.
The tomato sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Keep it covered in the refrigerator until 1 hour before you plan to serve it.
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