Make Ahead

Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil, and Brie

August 28, 2012
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

When I wrote about my mother's Summer Pasta alla Caprese a couple years ago, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. I'd been making the pasta–raw garlic or onion, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, fresh mozzarella–the same way for years. But once I'd documented it in writing as a childhood favorite, something my mother used to make several times a summer, I realized that somehow my taste memory was out of whack

It was a month or so ago that I finally put the pieces together. My mother didn't actually use mozzarella–she used Brie! Like many of us scarred by the chalky, leaden wedges that made an appearance at pretty much every event in the late 80s and early 90s, I'd apparently blocked all memories of this once chic, now much maligned cheese. I had mentally banished it to the recesses of culinary obscurity, and no wonder. Thus it happened that a pasta which was originally introduced to me as slightly creamy and complex, with a pleasant, bitter edge from the cheese, morphed in my mind over the years into a more predictable version of itself: comforting indeed, studded with chewy bits of melting mozzarella, but far less seductive.

The truth–though many of us would likely be slow to admit it–is that Brie, when it's good, is very very good. A fine Brie is just as delicious at room temperature smeared on crusty bread as it is warm, oozing out of flaky pastry. And it's REALLY good folded into a fresh tomatoey, garlicky sauce for pasta. No one understood this better than Julee Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins, creators of the beloved Silver Palate series, from whom my mother got her inspiration for our family favorite.

Today I'm sharing the Stubbs rendition, which uses less olive oil (Rosso and Lukins' version calls for 1 whole cup for just 1 1/2 pounds of pasta!) and slightly less garlic and basil, but plenty of tomatoes and Brie with the rind on, which I believe is key to the endeavor. I highly recommend you cast aside any residual anti-Brie sentiments and give this one a shot before tomatoes disappear for the year. You won't regret it. —Merrill Stubbs

Watch This Recipe
Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic, Basil, and Brie
  • Prep time 8 hours
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 6 as a main course
  • 3/4 pound Brie (triple cream if you can get it)
  • 4 medium ripe-as-can-be tomatoes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, cleaned and dried
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons excellent olive oil
  • 1 dash Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound curly pasta (I like cavatappi)
In This Recipe
  1. Put the Brie in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up a little. This will make it easier to cut when the time comes.
  2. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a large serving bowl. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the bowl. Chiffonade or roughly chop the basil and add that to the bowl too. Pour in the olive oil and add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Gently stir everything together.
  3. Once the Brie is firm enough, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes and add these to the bowl. Gently fold to combine the cheese with the rest of the ingredients. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2, and up to 8, hours -- the longer the better.
  4. When you are ready to eat, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until just al dente. Strain it and tip it into the bowl with the sauce. Fold everything together until it is well combined, the Brie has begun to melt, and the pasta is slicked with cheese and tomato goodness. Serve immediately with a big green salad.

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.