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Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Pesto, Salsa di Pomodoro Crudo, and Other Easy No-Cook Sauces for Hot Pasta: 12 Tantalizing, Thrifty Recipes & Preparation Tips

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

There are literally hundreds of ways to prepare salsa di pomodoro crudo, a tomato-based sauce for hot pasta that requires no cooking
There are literally hundreds of ways to prepare salsa di pomodoro crudo, a tomato-based sauce for hot pasta that requires no cooking

Tossing piping-hot pasta with a room-temperature, uncooked sauce of some chopped raw ingredients, some olive oil, and other seasonings, and then serving immediately, is still a fairly new concept to many Americans. For those on a limited food budget, these low-cost, no-cook sauces not only save you money, but save you time to prepare. Some can be prepared the night before or in the morning before leaving for work. Then, making dinner only necessitates cooking up the pasta. Dinner's ready in under 15 minutes!

Uncooked tomato sauces, called salsa di pomodoro crudo, are delicious and are popular summer fare in Italy. Most salsa di pomodoro crudo recipes call for using fresh tomatoes, but canned diced tomatoes can be used in a pinch or when tomatoes are not in season (although, the sauce is much better tasting and has a better texture with fresh tomatoes).

Pesto, a thick, flavorful, olive oil-based sauce, uses puréed greens — such as fresh basil, spinach, cilantro, or arugula — quality olive oil, garlic, grated cheese, and nuts, such as pine nuts, walnuts, peanuts, or almonds, all blended together to make a nice paste.

However, not all pestos today use greens; some rely on black olives or sun-dried tomatoes to create the pesto sauce.

Extra-virgin olive oil, however, is extremely important to use in all pestos. Saving a bit of money here is no savings, in my opinion. Avoid using lesser-quality olive oil because using a lower-quality oil will definitely diminish the pesto's flavor. Use the lower-grade olive oils in dishes that require cooking.

Pesto can be stored for about a week in the fridge, and for months in the freezer. So, making a big batch and dividing it into small portions for freezer storage for future use is a time-saver. You can freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then remove the frozen cubes and put into a freezer storage bag. Or, place spoon-sized dollops on a baking sheet, freeze, and then put the frozen dollops into a zip-lock storage bag or Tupperware-like container. Thawing is a snap when the pesto is frozen in small sizes, and you only need to take from the freezer the amount you need for a given dish.

Fresh, homemade pesto with hot pasta... delicious and easy

Fresh, homemade pesto with hot pasta... delicious and easy

Many purists believe that authentic pesto must be a pounded basil sauce. Pesto originated in Liguria, a coastal area in northwestern Italy. Traditionally, the sauce was made in a mortar and pestle from basil leaves, raw garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, grated cheese, and salt. However, there are now many variations, and for convenience sake, using a food processor or blender instead of the traditional mortar and pestle speeds up the preparation. Pesto doesn't have to be added to just pasta; it's also delicious as a sauce to spread on cooked chicken, fish, or even pizza.

Amazing: a quick, fresh sauce, one that requires no cooking, of chopped fresh ripe tomatoes or greens blended together with a light olive oil and seasoned with fragrant herbs and tossed with pasta on a hot summer day. Only the pasta needs to be cooked, so during the hotter months, these quick sauces are a blessing. However, they're equally good during the cold winter months.

Making pesto, salsa di pomodoro crudo, or other no-cook sauces for hot pasta (tomatoes don't have to be included) is incredibly easy. There is no single recipe that is better than the others. These are terrific time- and money-savers, because you can usually use what you have on the pantry shelf; buy cans of clams, jars of marinated artichoke hearts, or other typically expensive items when they're on sale, and keep them on hand for a future no-cook sauce. Once you've made a few of these sauces, and realize how much money you're saving, you'll probably never feel the desire to buy pricey, pre-made sauces in a jar from the grocery store.

These lovely tiny golden pear tomatoes are excellent to use in no-cook pasta sauces. | Photo credit: Vicki McClure Davidson
These lovely tiny golden pear tomatoes are excellent to use in no-cook pasta sauces. | Photo credit: Vicki McClure Davidson

Use pasta shapes that can hold the ingredients of the sauce. Raw sauces usually aren't smooth like many cooked sauces, so the pastas that work best are thicker pastas or those with hollow areas to grab and trap the ingredients, such as shells, cavatelli, orecchiette, penne, or rigatoni. Use flat pastas like fettuccine to soak up juicier sauces. However, almost any pasta type or shape, other than extremely thin or fragile ones like angel hair or soup pastas, can successfully be used.

For more information on types of pasta and pasta cooking tips, refer to Pasta Perfection... How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Time.

Pesto, salsa di pomodoro crudo, or other no-cook sauces are also thrift-minded ways to use up small amounts of leftover meats, such as a lone cooked chicken thigh (shred it up and add it to the other ingredients), a small portion of leftover diced turkey, ham, or pork, or a link or two of cooked Italian sausage (remove the casings and dice or crumble). Even a couple of diced up hot dogs can be used... this will put a smile on children's faces.

Here are 12 easy, tantalizing recipes for no-cook sauces for hot pasta. However, you can just as easily concoct your own recipes. Use these as a starting point to find out what you and your family likes. Then, experiment, tapping into your own creativity in the kitchen. Sky's the limit on preparing quick, thrifty, no-cook pasta sauces!


 

Pasta Sauce Recipe Directory

Perfect Basil Pesto with Almonds (video demo)


Tomato Sauce with Clams
Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Ricotta Sauce Three-Herb Pesto with Walnuts
Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella Sauce Caesar Pasta Sauce
Olive Oil, Lime, and Mint Sauce Shrimp and Artichoke Sauce
Fresh Tomato and Tuna Sauce Tomato Sauce with Butter and Basil
Ricotta and Fresh Herb Sauce

 

Yellow Tomato, Cucumber, and Coriander Sauce

 


This first no-cook sauce recipe is in the video demo below... Chef Jean-Pierre shows how to easily make a fabulous pesto — in this demo, he uses almonds and fresh basil.


ABC Cooks, with Chef Jean-Pierre - Perfect Basil Pesto with Almonds

 

Note on nuts: If you're adding pine nuts or almonds to your no-cook pasta sauce, lightly toast them in a small pan on the stove for a few minutes until they're light brown before adding to the other ingredients. This boosts the flavor of the nuts from just so-so to fabulous. It only takes a few minutes (be careful to not overcook, or they may become hard or bitter). You can add a splash of olive oil in which to brown them, or sauté them dry.

Note on garlic: Uncooked garlic packs a huge punch, and if the raw garlic flavor is too strong for your liking, blanching the garlic clove(s) for a minute in boiling water before adding to the sauce will tone down the garlic flavor.

Return to pasta sauce recipe directory

Suggestions for Stock-up Ingredients to Always Have on Hand

Some recommended items to have on hand (just suggestions, as many other items can be used in making a tasty, frugal salsa di pomodoro crudo) so that, when your schedule is demanding, you can whip up a no-cook sauce for a quick dinner or lunch:

extra-virgin olive oil
dried pasta of various shapes and sizes
fresh or canned tomatoes
fresh garlic
dried herbs/spices (basil, oregano, fennel seeds, thyme, etc.)
crushed red chili peppers
Parmesan cheese
sun-dried tomatoes
black and green olives
jars of roasted red pepper
canned tuna
anchovies
pine nuts
almonds
walnuts
capers
lemon zest
dried chiles
white kidney beans
sardines
prosciutto
canola oil
canned chopped clams
canned red salmon

 

Fresh Tomato, Basil, and Ricotta Sauce

Combine the tomatoes, basil, onion, and garlic. Stir in the ricotta, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook pasta; when al dente, drain well, but don't rinse. Toss hot pasta with the sauce and serve at once.

Yield: Approx. 3 cups, or enough for 1 lb. pasta; recommended pastas are rotelle, fusilli, ziti, penne, or tubetti

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Chef foods divider

 

Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella Sauce

In a bowl, toss the diced mozzarella with the tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and kosher salt. Season generously with black pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes. Cook pasta; when al dente, drain well, but don't rinse. Add the sauce to the hot pasta and toss very well. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 1 lb. spaghetti or penne pasta

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Chef foods divider

 

Olive Oil, Lime, and Mint Sauce

Place the olive oil, lime zest, garlic, mint (or cilantro), and salt in a serving bowl. Cook pasta; when al dente, drain, but keep the pasta moderately wet, allowing some of the cooking water to cling to the pasta. Add the hot, dripping pasta to the sauce and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately.

Yield: Approx. 1 cup, or enough for 1 lb. spaghetti or other long, thin strand pasta

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Chef foods divider

 

Fresh tomatoes are best, but canned tomatoes can also be used in no-cook pasta sauces. | Photo credit: Scott M. Liddell, MorgueFile.com
Fresh tomatoes are best, but canned tomatoes can also be used in no-cook pasta sauces. | Photo credit: Scott M. Liddell, MorgueFile.com

Fresh Tomato and Tuna Sauce

Combine the tomatoes, tuna, red onion, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stir to blend.

Cook pasta; when al dente, drain well, but don't rinse. Toss hot pasta with tomato and tuna mixture; serve at once.

Yield: Approx. 3 cups, or enough for 1 lb. pasta; recommended pastas are any of the ridged pasta shapes

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Chef foods divider

 

Ricotta and Fresh Herb Sauce

Combine all the ingredients and stir to blend. Cook pasta; when al dente, drain well, but don't rinse. Fold sauce into hot pasta and serve at once.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 12 oz. pasta; recommended are tubular pasta like penne, rigatoni, shells, ziti, or rotelle

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Chef foods divider

 

Tomato Sauce with Clams

Combine butter, tomatoes, garlic, clams, clam juice, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in pasta serving bowl. Set aside to warm to room temperature or, preferably, place the bowl (be sure it's heatproof) over the pasta pot to warm the ingredients and melt the butter while heating the pasta water. Once the pasta water comes to a boil, remove bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta well (don't rinse) and immediately add to the sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with basil strips and toss to mix thorougly. Serve at once with extra Parmesan cheese.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 8 oz. pasta; recommended are strand pasta, like linguine

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Chef foods divider

 

Three-Herb Pesto with Walnuts

Finely chop the basil, parsley, dill, walnuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. With motor running, gradually add the oil through the feed tube. Add the cheese.

Cook pasta; when al dente, remove and save 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the pasta. Don't rinse the pasta. Toss the hot pasta with the sauce and the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Serve at once.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 1 lb. spaghetti or fettucine

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Chef foods divider

 

Caesar Pasta Sauce

Combine olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, crushed red pepper, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in pasta serving bowl. Set aside to warm to room temperature, or just until flavors mingle.

Cook pasta; until al dente. Drain pasta well (don't rinse) and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with croutons and toss. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve at once with extra Parmesan cheese.

Yield: Approx. 1 cup, or enough for 8 oz. pasta; recommended pastas include farfalle, penne rigate, medium shells, spaghetti, linguine

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Chef foods divider

 

Shrimp and Artichoke Sauce

Important trick to this delicious sauce: Drain the artichoke marinade into a small bowl, allow it to stand until the oil floats to the top, then spoon out 4 tablespoons of the oil, leaving the vinegar behind.

Combine artichokes, artichoke marinade, garlic oregano, crushed red pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in pasta serving bowl. Set aside to warm to room temperature or, preferably, place the bowl (be sure it's heatproof) over the pasta pot to warm the ingredients and melt the butter while heating the pasta water. Once the pasta water comes to a boil, remove the bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta until almost al dente. Add shrimp and cook until opaque, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain pasta and shrimp well (don't rinse) and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with basil and toss. Serve at once with extra Parmesan cheese.

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Chef foods divider

 

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Basil

Purée tomatoes, in two batches if necessary, in food processor and transfer to pasta serving bowl. Add butter, salt, and pepper. Set aside to warm to room temperature or, preferably, place the bowl (be sure it's heatproof) over the pasta pot to warm the ingredients and melt the butter while heating the pasta water. Once the pasta water comes to a boil, remove bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta well (don't rinse) and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with basil and toss. Serve at once with extra Parmesan cheese.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 18 oz. pasta; recommended pasta is cheese-filled ravioli (2 packages, 9 oz. each)

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Chef foods divider

 

Yellow Tomato, Cucumber, and Coriander Sauce

Combine the yellow tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper, basil, coriander, chili pepper, and scallion. Add the oil, lime juice, salt, and garlic; toss to blend.

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta well and immediately add to sauce in bowl. Toss hot pasta with the sauce and serve at once.

Yield: Approx. 2 cups, or enough for 12 ounces pasta; recommended pastas include coucous, rotini, farfelle, fusilli, shells, penne, tubetti, and linguine.

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Sources:

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: Featuring More Than 1,200 Kitchen-Tested Recipes, America's Test Kitchen, 2005.
Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine, The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles, Clarkson Potter, Boston Common Press, Inc., NY, NY, 2000.
Post-Gazette website, In the Kitchen, " No-cook pasta sauce a summer recipe must," May 24, 2001, (http://www.post-gazette.com/food/20010524count.asp).
Simmons, Marie, 365 Ways to Cook Pasta, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., NY, NY, 1996.
Warner, Joie and Warner, Drew, Joie Warner's No-Cook Pasta Sauces, Chronicle Books, Flavor Publications, Inc., San Francisco, CA, 1998.
Wright, Clifford, Fine Cooking website, "No-Cook Pasta Sauces Mean Fresh, Quick Meals," (http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to/no-cook-pastas.aspx).