Sometimes, I wonder if the sticky heat of summer and the deliciousness of its produce are delightful co-conspirators in promoting laziness. Isn't it wonderful that when you're too sluggish for cooking, the most vibrant produce shows up, demanding little more than a few passes with a sharp knife, a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt?
Of course, this tomato and brie pasta recipe — which I make every year as soon as summer's first perfect tomatoes arrive — has the nerve to insist that you also cook spaghetti, paste garlic, chop basil and even cut up brie cheese (which is no easy feat, but I have a trick!). Even so, I promise that your indignant efforts will yield gratifying results.
The buttery brie melts into the hot pasta and lends milky richness to those juicy chopped tomatoes tinged with piquant garlic and sweet basil. Think of this dish as bruschetta in pasta form, best eaten on the deck in a shirt you're not afraid of splattering with pinkish sauce.
Did I also mention that cleanup is minimal? After all, who can be bothered to do dishes in this damn heat?
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Wait for peak-season tomatoes to make this (trust me!). Serve with an ice-cold glass of dry rosé.
Recipe: Maggie Hennessy's Tomato and Brie Pasta
- 2 1/4 cups fresh tomatoes (1/2-inch diced)*
- 8 ounces brie cheese
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, divided
- 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Salt, as needed
*I enjoy a mix of heirlooms and ripe tomatoes on the vine.
Before you start cooking, place the brie in the freezer for a good 30 minutes. (This will help you cube it up later.)
Finely mince the garlic, then arrange it into a pile and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Press the side of your chef's knife into it and repeatedly smoosh it into the cutting board until it forms a paste. (You can also grate the garlic using a microplane, but I find the pasting technique very gratifying.)
Plunk the garlic paste into the bottom of a large prep bowl along with the chopped tomatoes (seeds and all because that's your sauce!), red pepper flakes and a good pinch of salt; mix well. Chop about 3 Tbsp of the basil leaves (leaving the rest whole for garnish) and add to the tomatoes and garlic. Pour in about 1/3 cup olive oil and toss everything together. Taste — it should be sweet, bright and well-salted, with a lush roundness from the olive oil. Set this on the counter while you cook the pasta.
Tomato and Brie Pasta (Maggie Henessy)
Bring a large pot of generously salted water (it should taste like the sea!) to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente. Meanwhile, cut the brie into 1/2-inch cubes, leaving on as much or as little of the rind as you like.
With a measuring cup, capture a bit of pasta water. Drain the pasta and dump it back into the pasta pot along with a splash of pasta water. Add half the brie, tossing constantly with tongs to start melting the cheese. Add the tomato-basil mixture and the rest of the brie, tossing with tongs until everything is well dispersed and the tomato liquid turns pink. Taste and adjust as desired with salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil.
Divide the pasta among 3 warmed* bowls, topping each with a few extra spoonfuls of the warm tomatoes. Finely chop the remaining basil and scatter over each dish. Finish with a squiggle of olive oil as well, if desired. Serve immediately — I mean it!
If you're on the hunt for more pasta inspiration, don't forget to check out My 10-year carbonara journey.
*Chef's Note: For this and most pasta dishes I make, I like to warm the bowls beforehand by stacking them on the back burner of the stove (behind the pasta pot, off the heat) and rotating them every few minutes the whole time I'm cooking. If your bowls are oven-safe, you can also warm them on the lowest setting for a few minutes before dinner.
More by this author:
- Observations from a Chicago Dunkin' Donuts
- A love letter to all the produce I haven't picked
- The nourishing joy of simmered whole chicken
- At Bombera, Oakland's Chicano cooking heritage is the future
- How to brew a better French press coffee, according to an expert
- Do not rage-cook mapo tofu, and other emotional kitchen lessons
- Tortilla española, mi cariño: An ode to the simple, perfect Spanish omelet
- My favorite, simplest eggplant parm (Yep, this recipe is as easy as it gets!)