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No-Cook Tomato Sauce Is a Scam

This barely-cooked version has way more flavor, and it clings to pasta just right.

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Feeling hangry isn’t patient. Certainly not our associate food editor, Kendra Vaculin. Her monthly column is called “Speedy Does It,” and in it, she reveals amazing meals that can be prepared in a snap. Today, she makes a pasta sauce that requires little to no cooking.

If you have a peak-season tomato, produce purists will tell you to do as little as possible to it. Juicy heirlooms, whether sliced thick on toast or cut into wedges for a Fancy and Beautiful Tomato Salad (no joke, that’s the name of the recipe), need only salt to truly sing.

That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that raw tomato sauces are so popular. The tomato harvest is short, but pasta is timeless. The easiest way to combine the two is with a sauce that requires no heat.

Right?

I’m still not buying it. I enjoy a tomato as much as the next person when it’s been sitting in the sun on the plant, but there’s a good reason why making tomato sauce isn’t a quick task: Tomatoes taste best when cooked. Whether you’re quickly popping cherry tomatoes or slowly simmering marinara, heat concentrates their acidity and sweetness. Tomato paste is frequently used as a quick fix to achieve a rich flavor without waiting the full cooking time, but this only shifts the time it takes to prepare the paste up the food chain because it has already been concentrated.

In contrast, I want a sauce with some thickness and body to dress my pasta, and no-cook sauces lack both of those qualities. Raw sauce is watery and lacks flavor without being cooked to concentrate the juices (did you know that tomatoes are about 94% water?).

So, in my opinion, the best “no-cook” tomato sauce is actually a touch on the cooked side. The answer is “not much.” Certainly not even a moderate amount. Put out of your mind any mental images of time-consuming Sunday sauces. The goal is still speed, and the tomatoes’ summer glory is still there, but with a texture and flavor worthy of your best box of pasta.

The sauce is made by grating several large tomatoes, discarding the skin and breaking the flesh into small pieces. In less time than it takes to boil water for the pasta, those tomato bits can go from liquidy and loose to just tight enough in a hot pan.

Then you’ll add a few power players to turn the whole thing deeply savory: butter, miso, and fish sauce, a magical trifecta of caramelized umami. Don’t let the sauce’s light color fool you. The anchovies in the fish sauce and the funk of the miso give this dish serious flavor. Enough to sway even the most ardent “hands off the tomatoes!” campaigners.

Give it a shot: