Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Easy tomato-basil sauce, and that bean salad

We love pasta. I try to be creative about the ways I serve it, but I usually end up coming back to this simple tomato-basil sauce. It's delicious and can be made in minutes, with just a handful of ingredients. It's perfect when you're in a hurry and it's pretty healthy too. It's best with fresh basil, but it also tastes good with dried. I often make it for dinner on Monday, as we adhere to a pretty strict Meatless Monday regimen.

This recipe came from Rachael Ray's very first "30-Minute Meals"-related cookbook, which I bought around 2001. Her TV show had just started and people were telling me how much I looked and sounded like her. How funny! I didn't see much similarity but I enjoyed her style of cooking, at the time. After awhile, it began to seem a bit weird and ill-planned, like she was throwing random ingredients together for her "stoups" and casseroles. I lost interest. But that first cookbook was excellent and I still make a number of recipes from that book, including this sauce.


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or put through press
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
About 10 fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper


Put oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Add chopped garlic and cook a couple of minutes. Don't let the garlic begin to turn brown. (Rachael Ray always used to say to cook it "until the garlic speaks," meaning you can hear it bubbling and smell it too; this works, but keep an eye on it). Take the pan off the heat and add the tomatoes, with their juice. Stir to incorporate oil and garlic. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook about 15 minutes, until it's a little bit reduced and thickened. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and stir them in just before serving (they will turn black if you let them cook too long in the sauce). Taste for seasoning and serve over hot pasta.

This sauce can be taken in a lot of different directions. I've experimented a lot with it over the years; sometimes I might add some crushed red pepper flakes when I cook the garlic. I've also added some anchovy paste at that point; this makes a more adult-style sauce, the beginnings of a puttanesca, really (I'll share my full recipe for that sauce some other time). I have also added a few chopped fresh tomatoes to the canned, just to give a fresher, more summery flavor. This would also be good with other herbs added, if you have them. But I really love it made in this most basic way; it's delicious and easy. We add cheese at the table - either parmesan or pecorino romano, whatever I have on hand.

I've also had a few questions and comments about the cold bean salad I showed in a recent post. I thought I'd offer some more information about that. It's sooo incredibly easy, but bear in mind that it's my own self-invented recipe, so you might wish to play with it yourself and get it right for your own tastes. I liked the way it turned out.

I started with a can of drained, rinsed cannellini (white kidney) beans. Then I added some chopped cucumber and tomato, along with a small (drained) can of sliced black olives and a small (drained) can of mushroom stems and pieces (sliced would also be fine). I tore about ten basil leaves into small pieces and added them. Then I dressed the mixture, pouring the ingredients directly into the bowl. I used about a tablespoon of oil, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and a little salt, pepper and garlic powder. I stirred to coat everything, then placed the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour until serving.

We had this particular salad on Memorial Day with grilled cheeseburgers and potato chips. It was really good - cold and flavorful, with a little zip from the vinegar and pepper, but also sweetness from the veggies and basil. I love to make salads like this in the summer; it's a little like the classic bean salads you might see at picnics, but slightly updated. You can do all sorts of variations using the basic ingredients; sometimes I'll add cooked pasta, sometimes a can of tuna fish or different kinds of olives. You can vary the beans too; this would be great with chickpeas or red kidney beans.


  1. Yum! We eat a lot of pasta here and make that sauce often, adding chilli flakes and pancetta for a sort-of amatriciana sauce, or olives and anchovies for a puttanesca type sauce. So versatile, and thrifty. Your bean salad looks tempting, thanks for sharing your recipes. x

  2. Thanks for sharing recipes.. that is always fun to see how other people cook. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  3. Have you ever tried Marcella Hazen's 4-ingredient marinara? Canned tomatoes, butter, onion, pinch of salt. So easy, so yummy. It's my go-to minimalist sauce. Your salad looks delicious, too!

    Have a wonderful week! ~ Lisa

  4. We eat pasta a lot too, so quick and effortless...but my little boy hates pasta in a tomato sauce! We still make it in the hope that he will like it eventually...he loves tomatoes and ketchup though! Thanks for sharing your recipes, they are making me hungry! :)

  5. Lovely recipes Jennifer, thank you, and quick and easy too which is always a bonus when one doesn't want to break from hooking!
    I do a similar thing with the pasta sauce and sometimes will quarter a few olives and add in. Have you tried pesto sauce for your little boy? I included an easy recipe in one of my posts a few weeks ago and if you have basil available then it's so easy to make up and store in the freezer for when needed. It's concentrated so you only need a spoonful or so each time, stirred through the pasta.
    Happy cooking! Joy x


  6. I love tomato basil sauce, but I've never made my own! Thanks for the recipes. The bean salad looks delish.
    PS - Thanks for joining us at Meet & Greet.

  7. They look delicious, will have to give these recipes a go. Sarah x

  8. Thanks so much for the recipes! Now I just need to wait for the basil in my garden to grow a bit bigger, then I can try them out.

  9. Wow, these look really tasty- And so good for summer cooking- thanks for sharing:)

  10. Great recipes...and photos!!
    Love that bean salad...will def try that!
    I also make a fresh pasta sauce, very similar to that..
    I use fresh grape tomatoes halved, diced garlic,olive oil,pinch of red pepper flakes...
    Same method as you...except I also add diced cooked zucchini,and diced cooked Italian sausage...when the pasta is almost done, add 1 cup of the pasta water to the sauce..drain cooked pasta...add to sauce...mix...add fresh torn basil leaves and some parmesan cheese...Delish!!! I call it my Summer Pasta!!
    Don't mean to steal your thunder...[I am pretty bossy!]...but sometimes different techniques are worth a try!
    I always forget to take pictures of it...next time!!
    Also...it is excellent warmed up the next day!

    Enjoy your day Jennifer...I am sure you and the kiddies are having a fun time!

    Linda :o)

  11. Oh that pasta sauce looks delicious just my kind of food x

  12. I love your recipie sharing, Jennifer. Such a shame I can't gatecrash a meal!

    Leanne xx

  13. YUM! Both recipes look fantastic!

  14. Your bean salad looks so tasty and I think I'd be able to manage that pasta dish. Gosh...you eat well and make me drool!
    Handmade Cuties

  15. This tomato basil sauce sounds like just the thing for after a long day. I love fresh basil too! I am happy to connect with you via the Great Blog Train. Best wishes for tasty dishes! Linda

  16. I'm a big pasta fan also. Fresh basil is so good, I love it :)

  17. DH loves pasta, I'm not so fond. That bean salad looks very tasty.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Carol xx

  18. Will surely try this recipe! The pasta looks delicious. Thanks for sharing dear. :)
    Following you back via GFC btw!

    xx, Mela


Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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