The Simple Art Of Cooking

The dog days of August are still with us and dinnertime necessitates speed and simplicity. I’m thinking pasta with an uncooked sauce so that the only pot needed is the pot to cook the pasta in. And there is no better time to prepare this type of pasta than in summer with the abundance of fresh local produce at our farm stands and farmers markets. The most legendary pasta with uncooked sauce is undoubtedly the classic basil pesto. The first time I tasted this wondrous uncooked sauce in Italy, it was served with silken, freshly made fettuccine pasta. If this option is not available purchase the best quality fettuccine you can buy. Fresh parsley sauce with fresh tomatoes is another delicious version from Lydia Bastianich. My first experience with an uncooked tomato sauce was when I studied in Italy another long time ago. Vermicelli pasta with uncooked tomato sauce became the object of my affection.

You may want to add a salad to your menu, but I have my greens—the basil or parsley and of course tomatoes if I choose to go that route. [expand]

I would prefer to finish the meal with a nice thick chilled wedge of the sweetest melons gracing our farm stands right now.

Buon appetito!


Fettuccine pasta with pesto sauce.

Serves 4 to 5

For the pesto

3 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves

2-3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup pignoli nuts

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the pasta

1 pound fettuccine

Kosher salt for the cooking water

3 to 4 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water


1. Wash basil leaves and gently pat dry. Without crushing basil, pack into measuring cup. Set aside.

2. Put the garlic cloves into work bowl of food processor fitted with knife blade or into a blender and process until finely chopped. Add basil leaves, pignoli nuts, salt and pepper and pulse with several on/off turns to chop ingredients coarsely. Scrape mixture down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary. With machine running pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow steady stream. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, and process to a puree. Can be refrigerated for a day (or freeze for later use), defrost at room temperature.

3. When ready to sauce your pasta, stir grated cheese and butter into the pesto.

5. Meanwhile, bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and put in the fettuccine. Stir with a fork to separate the pasta, cover pot and return to a boil immediately. Uncover and cook the pasta at a rolling boil for about 9 to11 minutes, depending on the brand you are using. Taste to be sure pasta is al-dente or firm to the bite. Be careful not to over cook. Just before draining pasta, ladle about 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking water to the pesto to soften and stir to mix.

5. Drain and transfer pasta to a large mixing bowl, add the pesto sauce and stir to coat very well. Serve warm with additional cheese if desired.



This fresh uncooked sauce recipe works best in late summer when local tomatoes are at their peak of flavor. Serve at room temperature over warm pasta. The dish makes a fine summer lunch or light supper dish.

Serves 4 to 5


1 1/2-2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, preferably plum

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium red onion, cut into paper-thin slices

1/3 cup julienne of fresh basil

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound plain or spinach vermicelli

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley


1. To prepare sauce: Cut a crisscross at the rounded base of the tomatoes to facilitate peeling. Plunge 2 to 3 tomatoes at a time into boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and cool quickly under a spray of cold water. Skin should slip off easily with the tip of a paring knife. Cut each tomato in half crosswise, hold in palm of hand and squeeze gently to remove and discard seeds. Repeat with remaining tomatoes, and then cut into cubes. Transfer to a large glass or earthenware bowl (not metal). Add garlic, onions, basil, vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Fold the ingredients with a large rubber spatula to gently mix. Prepare the sauce ahead for flavors to develop. Cover bowl and refrigerate for up to several hours.

2. To serve, bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Add the pasta, cover pot and return quickly to the boil. Uncover pot and boil briskly for 9 to 12 minutes until al dente, firm to the bite. Drain pasta and quickly transfer to a warm serving platter. Drizzle over the remaining oil and toss to mix. Pour the tomato mixture over the warm pasta and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Reprinted from Silvia Lehrer’s Cooking at Cooktique, Over 200 International Food Classics from a Teaching Kitchen (Doubleday)



Fresh parsley sauce with summer

tomatoes over pasta!!!

Serves 4

2 cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves

2 to 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 to 1/3 cup?? dried hot pepper flakes

1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes


For the pasta

1 pound spaghetti

Kosher salt for the cooking water

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino


Put the parsley leaves, garlic, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt in work bowl of food processor. Pulse several times to chop the leaves coarsely, then, with machine running, pour in the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow steady stream. Stop and scrape down the sides of the work bowl, and process to a fine-textured, loose pesto. Can be refrigerated for a day in a small container (or freeze for later use). Defrost at room temperature.

If preparing the pesto to use right away, prepare the tomatoes first. Core the tomatoes, slice and cut into 1-inch chunks and place in a deep bowl; toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let the tomatoes sit to release their juices while you cook the pasta.

Meanwhile, bring 4 to 5 quarts water to the boil, add 1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt to the water and put in the spaghetti. Stir with a fork to separate the pasta. Cover pot and return to a boil, Uncover and cook the pasta at a rolling for about 9 to 11 minutes depending on the brand you are using. Taste to be sure pasta is al dente or firm to the bite.

Drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the Parsley sauce and tomatoes and stir to mix very well. Serve with cheese on the side.


Above recipe adapted from Lydia Bastianich’s Lydia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Knopf, 2009.


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