Dinner Tonight: Michael Ruhlman's Pasta with Tomato Water

August 30, 2016

Efficiency is key in the kitchen—it's why we clean as we go, plan in advance, multitask as often as we can, save our scraps for transforming into something new.

You might have never even considered the liquid weeping from your chopped tomatoes a "scrap"; maybe tomatoes barely make it to a chopped stage in your kitchen. But if you're chopping tomatoes, know, as chef Michael Ruhlman did, that your tomatoes have one more gift to offer, and that gift is tomato water, and it practically creates a sauce for your pasta out of thin air. All you have to do is salt a bowl of chopped tomatoes while the pasta water boils and collect what pools. Believe us—it makes for a speedy dinner that tastes like summer:

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  • 4 ripe tomatoes, cut into large dice
  • 1 cup basil, cut into ribbons
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 3 ounces butter, cut into three chunks
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or any other pasta you fancy

We're assuming you already have salt and olive oil, but if not, add them to your list too!

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The Game Plan

20 minutes before dinner, put on a big pot of water to boil. Put the chopped tomatoes in a large bowl, salt them, and set them aside. While they rest, chop the garlic and slice the fresh basil. Toss the basil with the tomatoes. Once the water boils, cook the pasta, drain it, add it back to the pot and drizzle with olive oil. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic in a glug of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Drain the liquid that's collected in the bottom of the bowl of tomatoes right into the pan (reserving the tomatoes) and let it simmer, stirring continuously as you add the butter chunk by chunk.

Just before sitting down, toss in the pasta into the tomato water reduction—then top with the remaining tomatoes and basil and inhale it all.

See the full recipe here.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.