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Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce
I’ve been carting around different versions of this recipe since college. (That’s about 25 years, you guys. Yikes!) It started out as a clipping from a magazine: “Hot Pasta, Cold Sauce,” a recipe for piles of hot linguine topped with a room temperature tomato-basil sauce. I made it all the time because it was fast, easy, and cheap. As my budget and tastes evolved, the recipe did, too. The dried linguine was replaced with fresh pasta from the gourmet section of the grocery store. A friend embellished it by tossing the pasta with pesto before adding the tomato sauce on top; another sprinkled crumbled feta over the whole shebang. I’ve vacillated between ordinary canned olives in brine and the tiny, wrinkled ones packed in oil. And finally, when I made the switch to paleo, I ditched the cheese and replaced the wheat pasta with zucchini noodles.
Every version of this recipe I’ve ever eaten has been ridiculously delicious. You know why?
Because it’s not the cheese or the noodles that make this special: It’s the sweetness of the summer sunshine in the tomatoes and the fresh, anise-y bite of the basil. I’ve been waiting (not so patiently) since our CSA started in May to bust out this recipe, and I’m delighted to say that the tomatoes and basil have really outdone themselves.
This tastes best when it’s prepared and eaten on the same day, but the sauce will hold up overnight if you have some leftovers. If the flavors have faded, you can give it a quick sauté in a hot skillet to give it a second life as a pan sauce.
Serves 4 | Prep 20 minutes | Marinate 60 minutes | Cook 3 minutes | Whole30 compliant
1 to 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (any kind)
3/4 cup pitted black olives
8-10 large fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice, cut the olives in half, chiffonade the basil (how-to video). Place in a large bowl and toss gently to mix.
In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes until combined. Continue to whisk and drizzle in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to combine. Allow to marinate 1 hour. (The tomato juices will gather in the bottom of the bowl to make a magical elixir infused with flavor. This tomato broth is part of the sauce, and it’s luscious.)
Julienne the zucchini with a spiralizer or julienne peeler. Place the julienned zucchini in a colander or wire strainer and toss generously with salt (about 1 tablespoon) until the strands are lightly coated. Allow the zucchini to sit for 20-30 minutes to remove excess water. Rinse with running water, drain well, and pat dry with a clean dish towel.
Taste the tomato sauce and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the zucchini noodles. Sauté them in the dry pan until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and top with the room-temperature tomato sauce.
You Know How You Could Do That?
To make it a main course instead of a side dish, add slices of warm grilled chicken or chilled poached shrimp.
To make a winter version: If you get a craving for this in the winter when fresh tomatoes are nowhere to be found, you can use a drained can of Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes in place of the fresh ones. It’s not the same, but it is quite good.
To make it a salad: In this Instagram photo (follow me!), I skipped the zucchini noodles, then added poached shrimp and slivered fresh spinach leaves to the cold-from-the-fridge sauce. Luscious!