HDL COOKS: Pasta Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Pasta Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Oh pasta. Mender of broken hearts, filler of empty tummies, staple of many a student kitchen. I was an unfortunate latecomer to the pasta fanatic club (all thanks to my mother, who refused to have it in the house because she associates it with poverty…), but now I am here, sat with a dish of delicious rigatoni in my lap, typing about how in love I am with this recipe before I’ve even cleared my plate.

Mac and cheese, tortellini, lasagne… You can deliver pasta in many forms and 99% of the time I’ll be right there with you. But before we go any further than this, it’s important for you to know that I hate spaghetti. Like, cannot stand, will not eat, simply hate it. I’d say it was an irrational hatred but it’s about time that everyone took a long, hard look in the mirror and realised: spaghetti is the worst form of pasta. It overcooks too easily which means that it is always too soft, it’s completely incapable of attaching itself to any kind of sauce, so all you end up getting is a mouthful of doughy, overcooked mush. There is just nothing worse. The best form of pasta, or one of the best, at least, is rigatoni. 
For those of you whose pasta choices fluctuate between the devil (spaghetti) and its two basic bitch friends (penne and fusilli), rigatoni is like penne but less basic. Still a tube, but bigger, with ridges for catching every last bit of sauce and without that irrelevant jauntily angled edge. It’s perfect for this kind of simple sauce, and makes the best leftovers in a pasta bake with really crispy edges.

But enough about the pasta. This recipe is all about using simple flavours that come together perfectly in a dance of rich savouriness, effervescent tanginess and subtle sweetness.

Using fresh ingredients makes a massive difference, although I have used tinned tomatoes for this recipe in the past and it’s still tasted pretty good.

Recipe (Serves 2)


–  dried rigatoni (I really don’t know how much is in one serving, just pour it in and hope for the best!)
– 5 tomatoes on the vine, chopped (or 1 tin chopped tomatoes)
– 1 onion, finely diced
– 5 cloves garlic, crushed
– balsamic vinegar
– sugar
– aromat seasoning
– handful fresh basil leaves


1. Start by heating around 2 tbsp olive oil in a good, non-stick pan and on a very low heat cook the onions until they are soft and golden. Add the garlic until it becomes aromatic.
2. Add in the tomatoes, increase the heat to medium and stir until the sauce begins to reduce. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a heaped teaspoon of sugar. While these flavours settle and cook together, bring a pan of well-salted water to a rolling boil (add a lid to conserve heat if it’s taking too long) with a splash of olive oil and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente and strain, reserving a small amount of the starchy water.
4. Add half a teaspoon of Aromat seasoning to the sauce, which should be well-reduced by this point. Add some of the starchy water (not enough to make it watery, just to loosen the sauce up a little) and turn off the heat.
5. Just prior to serving, tear and add in the basil leaves, keeping the tips of a couple for garnish if you like.
6. Plate the pasta in a dish, add a generous helping of sauce and sprinkle with your favourite cheese or cheese substitute. I like the strength of parmesan, personally. Finally, garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!

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