Caprese Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce—the Italian way! Fresh tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and extra-virgin olive oil make this dish both delicious and nutritious. Fast, easy and perfect for a hot day.
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Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce: Ingredients
Which Tomatoes to Choose?
Ideally, choose fresh tomatoes that are advertised for salads and sandwiches rather than sauces. In Italy, Optima tomatoes are a good choice. Elsewhere, Beefsteak tomatoes would work. We are looking for a…
- medium to large tomatoes
- very pulpy
- with few seeds and water inside
What if it’s not the season for fresh tomatoes? This recipe will still be tasty if you use canned crushed tomatoes. Be sure to reach for canned tomatoes that say they are made with San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes are world-renowned for their sweetness and flavor.
To maximize the flavor of canned tomatoes, strain any water from the tomatoes. The watery part tends to add bitterness. We’ve found that whole canned tomatoes (water removed) and then blended into a pulp tend to be sweeter than canned crushed tomatoes—even among quality tomato brands.
Nothing can compare to enjoying this dish made with fresh ripe tomatoes, however the canned tomatoes options will still deliver a quick and tasty meal.
Italians in Italy use fresh, water-packed mozzarella for almost everything besides (maybe) pizza. In Italy, the Fior di Latte (a fresh cow’s milk mozzarella) is the type of mozzarella we usually select for this Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe.
Rigatoni or Penne
You can use any pasta you like for this recipe, however we prefer rigatoni or penne. Learn more about the best pasta brand in Italy with the PIATTO™ guide!
Parmigiano Reggiano—not ‘Parmesan’
Always use Parmigiano Reggiano (not ‘Parmesan’), preferably freshly grated!
Olive Oil, Garlic, Basil, Salt
And to round out our list of fresh Mediterranean ingredients, you’ll need a few leaves of fresh basil, fresh garlic, fine salt and extra virgin olive oil! In fact, this Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce is a great way to maximize the healthy benefits of extra virgin olive oil as you will be adding it uncooked.
How to Make Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Basil: Tips
Adding extra-virgin olive oil uncooked is the best way to maximize its health benefits—a staple in the Mediterranean diet and particularly in Italy. In this recipe, we do just that!
This recipe is the quintessential quick, fresh summer dish—the kind enjoyed by Italians on a daily basis. It features ripe fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil and pasta! We recommend using penne or rigatoni pasta, however other pastas are tasty as well.
Prepare the Cheeses
Slice the mozzarella. Pat dry any excess water with a paper towel, then dice the cheese into bite-size pieces.
Now’s also the time to fresh grate the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you haven’t purchased it already grated.
Prepare the Tomatoes
Remove Tomato Skins
To make the fresh tomato sauce, we need to peel the fresh tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to score the tomato skins, then boil the tomatoes for about a minute.
After the brief boil, the skins will come right off!
Discard White, Stems, Tomato Seeds and Water
The seeds and watery parts of tomato tend to be a bit acidic and bitter. We use a finger or a tiny spoon to remove and discard these parts of the tomatoes.
We are left with a pile of deliciously sweet tomato pulp:
Crush the Tomato Pulp
Lightly salt the tomato pulp and let let them rest for 5 minutes. The salt will extract more (likely bitter) water and you can discard that as well.
Crush the tomatoes until they are a pulpy consistency. You can make it more or less pulpy, depending on your taste. Use an immersion blender, a fork, a ricer—whatever you like to crush the tomatoes. We usually use an immersion blender.
Season the Fresh Tomato Sauce
Add halves of fresh garlic (smashed with your palm or the back of a knife), a few leaves of fresh basil and some olive oil to the fresh tomato sauce. Let the mixture rest for at least 15 minutes so that the fresh flavors can infuse the sauce.
Remove and discard the large pieces of garlic before adding the sauce to the pasta. Add the grated Parmigiano cheese to the sauce as well.
Cook the Pasta
Cook the pasta of your choice according to package directions for al dente pasta. Salt the pasta water with a few handfuls of coarse salt.
Finish the Pasta!
Combine the cooked (drained) pasta with the fresh tomato sauce…
Then, add the diced mozzarella cheese…
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Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Basil
- ¼ lb mozzarella fresh or water-packed
- 3 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated
- 1 lb fresh tomatoes ripe Roma or similar
- fine salt to taste
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- ¼ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- ½ lb pasta pasta for 4 (penne or rigatoni)
- Slice the mozzarella. Pat dry any excess water with a paper towel. Dice into bite-size pieces. Set aside.¼ lb mozzarella
- Measure out the Parmigiano Reggiano. Grate fresh from a wedge if possible for maximum flavor. Set aside.3 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
Prepare Fresh Tomato Sauce
- Make a shallow cut on one side of each tomato or an 'X' across the bottom.1 lb fresh tomatoes
- Add the tomatoes to a pot of boiling water. Boil around one minute. Save the water for cooking the pasta.
- Remove the tomatoes from the hot water with a strainer or similar. Peel the tomatoes.
- Remove any seeds and water from inside the tomatoes Discard these parts along with whites and stems because they all of these parts tend to be bitter.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to a bowl with a couple of pinches of salt. Let the tomatoes rest for 5 minutes.fine salt
- The salt will extract more water (and bitterness) from the tomatoes. You can discard this water as well.
- Mash or crush the tomato pulp using a ricer, fork or immersion blender. Crush to the consistency you prefer.
- Add halved fresh garlic, fresh basil, black pepper and extra-virgin olive oil to the mashed tomatoes. Mix and let the sauce rest for at least 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to develop.2 cloves fresh garlic, ¼ tsp black pepper, ¼ cup olive oil
- After the rest, discard the large pieces of garlic. Add the Parmigiano cheese.3 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
Finish with Pasta
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. You can use the water in which you boiled the fresh tomatoes to remove their skins.½ lb pasta
- In a large bowl, combine the drained pasta and the fresh tomato sauce.
- Add the diced pieces of mozzarella and drizzle generously with more extra-virgin olive oil.
- Buon appetito!