This is the perfect dish for a weeknight dinner in late summer, particularly as the kids start heading back to school and family schedules get crazy again. The recipe calls for just a handful of ingredients that can all be pulled together in the time it takes to boil water.
Tomatoes are the star of this show, as they should be this time of the year. A fresh local tomato at the height of ripeness is one of those things that make life worth living.
Indeed, they’re so good as is that they don’t even need to be cooked. Obviously, we could cook them and turn them into a sauce, but we’d be kissing off some of their freshness and all of their crunch. Instead, we salt them, lightly, which intensifies their flavor and pulls out some of their liquid. This “tomato juice” becomes part of the sauce.
After the tomatoes have marinated in salt for 10 minutes, we season them with a little freshly grated lemon zest, a single tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil (this is a dish that requires the really good stuff) and some freshly ground black pepper.
Next it’s time to reach for the goat cheese. Combined with hot pasta and a little of the pasta cooking liquid, the cheese melts into a richly creamy sauce without any additional thickener. And I’m talking about full-fat goat cheese, which is relatively lean even as it boasts big flavor.
I recommend using whole-wheat pasta in this recipe, but you’re certainly welcome to explore some of the other whole-grain pastas that are now available. Kamut or spelt would be great.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, you can swap in quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat. (Its name notwithstanding, buckwheat isn’t wheat, it’s a grass.) Even so, you’ll want to check the label to make sure the pasta is completely gluten-free.
I finished this dish with a liberal sprinkling of herbs. And truthfully, there’s scarcely a fresh herb around that doesn’t play nicely with tomatoes. So feel free to recruit any and all of your own favorites. You can’t lose.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.