A Pinch of This and a Dash of That... Pasta with Fresh Tomato

In the past, attempting to get my mother to tell me just what all went into making one of my favorite dishes I enjoyed while growing up at home, which were many, and how much she added of what, was more like having my teeth pulled without Novocain. Her answer was always the same, “Well, you know...a bit of this and some of that...a pinch, a handful, a spoonful, and taste it! Always taste what you are cooking.” So in order for me to learn how and what she did was to actually be there, in person, looking over her shoulder when she made it.

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That... Pasta with Fresh Tomato_1

I gladly share this story with you so you may know that I learned old-school! But I am not going to do that to you, dear friends. I will give you ratios here, and to the best of my ability.

A family secret: My mother and I learned from a great old aunt, while living in El Salvador, and something that, believe it or not, I still practice today, always stir with the same spoon every pot you have cooking on the stove (desserts are exempt, of course). When flavors intermingle that is when you achieve a unique and unmatchable taste to your dish. Then it becomes “your” signature recipe.

This fantastic dish, flavors improvised and created on a whim, has to be one of my most delicious simple pasta recipes yet. You taste everything you add here and nothing overpowers the other flavors, beginning with: the slowly sautéed garlic and hot chiles and anchovy in olive oil and butter, the slight onion pungency of fresh scallions and the citrus-like hint of cilantro, the bursting sweet of freshly picked tomatoes, and last but not least the pasta. You actually taste the semolina in the pasta, and the pasta itself picks up bits of all the other flavors so that you taste every ingredient in every bite!

This year, hubby and I grew heirloom tomatoes, and we have an overabundance. So for this recipe we used Mr. Stripey, Juliette (some got very large, due to cross pollination from the other tomatoes nearby), Brandywine and San Marzano. And I can tell you that no restaurant I’ve ever been to could have pleased our taste-buds more. Sharing this with you now is like screaming my happiness to the world.

Most embarrassing, though, we like little children, hummed and yummed through our entire meal and to the very last bite. And I hope that you, too, will enjoy it as much as we did!

Come; take a comfortable seat at our cozy table. Dinner is served!

This recipe serves 4

STEPS 1 (cooking pasta):

Note:  Have ingredients in steps 2 and steps 3 already chopped and set aside.

1 pound pasta (used Barilla Spaghetti Rigati), cooked [preferably] just 1 minute beyond al dente, and in salted water with 1 bay leaf and 2 tablespoons butter.

Just before straining the pasta, make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water for use in steps 3.

Note:  While pasta is cooking begin with steps 2

STEPS 2 (sautéing):

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That... Pasta with Fresh Tomato_2

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2-4 serranos and/or jalapeños (to personal taste), thinly sliced (seeded is a personal preference)

2 anchovy filets

A pinch of salt


  • In a large sauté pan, on medium heat, bring oil and butter to sizzling.


  • Add garlic and chili peppers and sauté until just golden.


Note:  If the pasta is not ready at this point, turn off the heat to the sauté pan.


A Pinch of This and a Dash of That... Pasta with Fresh Tomato_3

STEPS 3 (putting it all together):

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2 (about 5-oz each) cans (oil from cans included) of good quality tuna (such as GENEVO TONNO, tuna in olive oil)

1 bunch green onions/scallions, finely chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped

1 pound cooked and drained pasta from steps 1

1/2 cup reserved pasta water from steps 1

1 pound (about) ripe but firm tomatoes (preferably heirlooms), such as Roma/Plum

1/3 cup (about) extra-virgin olive oil (more or less to personal taste)

A light sprinkle of salt (optional)

A few grinds of fresh pepper (optional)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (preferably Regiano Parmegiano)

  • To the sauté pan with the garlic and chiles, now at a sizzling medium-heat, add the cans of tuna (oil included), green onions and cilantro and gently toss for about 1 minute to heat and incorporate.
  • Add pasta and pasta water and toss about 1 minute to incorporate well.
  • Turn off heat; add tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese, and toss very gently to evenly distribute throughout.


A Pinch of This and a Dash of That... Pasta with Fresh Tomato_5

Serve this immediately and enjoy!

Cook with heart; eat with gusto. Buen Provecho!

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