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A super simple but seriously tasty pasta dish, using just four ingredients. Pasta, grape or cherry tomatoes, dried basil and olive oil. Summer on a plate in fifteen minutes.

Ok so there is salt involved too, but you can forgive me the fib can’t you? I really don’t think salt counts, as it’s actually only used for boiling the pasta. So, four ingredients! You might think this is the most boring plate of pasta ever, however, I ask you to trust me and give it a go. You can have some extras on standby just in case, but I really don’t think you will need them. The only thing that you need to make sure of is the quality of the ingredients. You want the best mini tomatoes you can find (cherry, grape or whatever you prefer – just as long as they are ripe and juicy), and some very good olive oil. It’s a main flavour here guys, it’s not just for sautéing, so invest in the best. You will be able to taste it.

Now, this dish is easy to make. But. Please be mindful of the timings. The trick is to get the timings right so that the tomatoes are at the right stage when the pasta is added to the frying pan. After making this a couple of times you will know exactly how you like it and will be making it off the top of your head.

In our house this is a staple dinner. We have it once a week (ahem, if not more) all through the summer months, and maybe even in spring and autumn since grape or cherry tomatoes are widely available then too. It’s so quick and easy, and it’s one of the Mister’s favourites, so why not?

In the notes I’ve included some extras you can add if you want to jazz things up a bit. But they are not necessary. Really.

Here goes.


250gr spaghetti

1 Tbs salt for boiling spaghetti

2 + 2 Tbs olive oil

500gr grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tsp basil, dried

salt and pepper to serve

Step 1

Put a pan of water on to boil and when it boils add the salt. Add the spaghetti and stir.

Step 2

After you put the pasta in, put a large frying pan on the stove, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat over high. When hot (after about 1 ½ minutes) add the tomatoes. Toss to coat in the oil. Turn the heat down to medium/low (mine was on 3 and the dial reaches 9). Add the basil, give it all another quick stir and let cook for about 8 minutes.

Step 3

When your 8 minutes is up the tomatoes should be nice and soft and there should be red juices in the pan. The pasta will have been on for 10 minutes by this time. Drain the pasta reserving one cup of the water. Add the pasta to the pan with the tomatoes and stir well to coat it in oil and juices. This should take about 30 seconds. Add half a cup of the pasta water and the two last tablespoons of oil and stir again. Let the spaghetti cook for another couple of minutes or until the water has been absorbed (mine took another four so total time for pasta was 14-15 minutes). The pasta should now have a reddish tint from the tomatoes. You want this. This is what it’s all about.

Step 4

Serve immediately with extra salt if needed (the pasta water is salty so you might not need any more) and freshly ground black pepper. The Mister also adds grated cheese but I think it takes away from the simplicity and delicate taste of this dish.

- The spaghetti I used is a little thick and has a cooking time of 9 to 12 minutes (packet instructions). We like our spaghetti well cooked (but not mushy!). If you like yours really al dente then adjust the timings of the recipe to reflect the total time you like it cooked. If necessary, start the tomatoes before the pasta so they get their 8 minutes. Consider also that different types of pasta need different times. For example a really thin spaghetti might only need 6 or 8 minutes cooking time.
- You can also add the pasta water in smaller installments at the end if you are worried about the pasta getting too soft. Try it as you go along.
- This is also great with penne pasta instead of spaghetti. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
- If you want to add a little something to this dish I suggest the following options (one or a combo of them):
• Use garlic infused olive oil, or add a clove of garlic to the oil when it’s heating up. You can either mince it or add it whole and then take it out before adding the pasta (for a lighter taste).
• Add some chopped prosciutto to the tomatoes just before adding the pasta.
• Add some torn pieces of fresh mozzarella during the final two minutes of cooking.
• Add some dried chilli flakes at the end.

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