No-Cook Hot Pasta Sauces

by Nancy Gerlach, Fiery-Foods.com Food Editor Emeritus

Nancy Gerlach

Recipes:

  • Green Chile Pesto

  • Fresh Herb Pasta

  • Salsa di Pomadoro Crudo (Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce)

  • Tomato and Herb Grab Pasta Salsa

  • Sun-Dried Tomato and Chipotle Pesto

I like to take advantage of the fresh produce available this time of the year and make pasta sauces. I can deal with cooking the pasta, but not with slaving over a hot stove preparing a sauce. Over the years I’ve collected and developed a number of recipes for pasta sauces that don’t need cooking yet are still hot with chile heat and keep me out of the kitchen.

I’m still amazed after all these years at the number of times I hear that I’m crazy to eat hot chiles when it’s 90 degrees outside. Yet people who live within the “chile belt,” which circles the world 14 degrees latitude above and below the equator, have always consumed large amounts of chile and don’t find it at all crazy. For years it was felt that the reason they are so popular there is their ability to mask the taste of spoiled food in areas where refrigeration was scarce or non-existent. But now there are scientific studies to prove that capsaicin, the heat producing ingredient in chiles, does have beneficial effects on the body when the temperature rises.

We all tend to be more active when the weather is great and it’s important to keep up calorie consumption to fuel our bodies. Yet appetites decrease when the temperature increases. Capsaicin acts as an irritant to the oral and gastrointestinal membranes of the body which in turn increase the flow of saliva and gastric acids, and stimulates the appetite. In addition, all of these responses work together to aid in digestion. And, if that is not enough, the sweating, called gustatory sweating, of the neck, face, and front of the chest in response to a good chile burn, actually helps the body cool down. All of the above makes consuming spicy, hot chiles on a hot day a healthy thing to do..

Tossing a quick, fresh chile sauce with pasta provides the capsaicin heat without heating up the kitchen. The following pasta sauce recipes work well with any shape of dry pasta, but I’m rather partial to spaghetti and linguine. Pasta is easy to cook and if you follow just a couple of rules you’ll always make a perfect pot. First, be sure to cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water and, after the water comes to a boil, add an ample amount of salt. This is an important step as the pasta needs to be seasoned while cooking or it will taste flat. The best way to test if the pasta is al dente, or done, is to taste it. The old test for doneness of throwing a piece against the wall or ceiling to see if it sticks, really doesn’t work. And most importantly, drain the pasta when done, but don’t rinse it. The starch that remains on the pasta after it’s drained will help to hold the sauce to it. I even add a little of the starchy, cooking water to my sauces and pestos before tossing with the pasta to make them more creamy!

No-cook pasta sauces have been a big culinary secret of the Italians. They have been enjoying hot pasta with quick, easy, fresh sauces for centuries. The following no-cook recipes take advantage of the fresh produce that is available this time of year, can also be made ahead of time, and with relatively little heat in the kitchen. When the temperature soars and appetites fizzle, prepare a bowl of no cook “hot” pasta and give a new meaning to the term fast food.



Green Chile Pesto

This Southwestern adaptation of the Italian specialty uses green chile and spinach in place of the traditional basil in the pesto. It has a very concentrated flavor as do all pestos, so a little bit goes a long way. This pasta topper is also good on grilled meats or fish, burgers, and sandwiches.

  • 1½ cups chopped fresh spinach

  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

  • 6 green New Mexican chiles, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

  • 1/4 to ½ cup vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the spinach, cilantro, and basil in a food processor or blender and pulse to finely chop. Add the chiles, garlic, pinons, lime juice and continue to pulse. With the machine running, slowly add just enough of the oil to make a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until done. Reserve about a 1/4 cup of the cooking water and add it to the pesto to thin the sauce make it more creamy and silky.

Put the pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the pesto, toss to coat, and serve.

Yield: 1 to 1 ½ cups

Heat Scale: Medium

Variation: To increase the heat add serrano or jalapeño chiles.



Fresh Herb Pasta

I first sampled the easy way that Italians cook their pasta when I was fortunate enough to house sit for friends in Florence, Italy. When they would prepare a simple dinner, they would pick some herbs, dice a fresh tomato, combine them with some olive oil and butter. Sometimes they would heat the mixture and sometimes not, and toss it with pasta. Since I’m addicted to chile, I always add it to their basic recipe. In fact it, this is so easy to prepare it can hardly be called a recipe

  • 1 cup chopped assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, summer savory, tarragon, and thyme

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1 tablespoon crushed red chile

  • Salt

  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced

  • Freshly grated Romano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Combine the herbs, shallots, olive oil, butter, chile, and a little salt in a serving bowl and mix well.

Cook the pasta until done and drain. Add the pasta to the bowl, toss to coat. Top with the tomatoes and grated cheese and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium



Salsa di Pomadoro Crudo (Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce)

This is a very basic sauce that can be easily changed to create a variety of different pasta dishes. For example, substitute feta cheese for the mozzarella, oregano for the basil, add some kalamata olives and chopped capers and you have Greek pasta. This dish can be served hot or at room temperature making it great for summer entertaining.

  • 4 tomatoes, chopped

  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil

  • 2 to 3 jalapeño or serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced

  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, asiago, or ricotta cheese, diced small

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Chopped walnuts for garnish

Combine the tomatoes, basil, chiles, onion, and garlic in a large serving bowl. Stir in the cheese, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce stand for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Cook the pasta until the done and drain. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Garnish with the walnuts and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium Hot



Tomato and Herb Grab Pasta Salsa

Mary Jane Wilan developed this recipe for a book she wrote with Denice Skrepenski titled Pasta Exotica (Ten Speed Press.) She created this salsa sauce one summer evening when she had harvested so many tomatoes she couldn’t see her kitchen counter anymore. She serves it over her sun dried tomato/basil pasta, but says it works well with any shell or rotelle pasta as well. I’ve taken the liberty to heat up her pasta with the addition of chile.

  • 1/4 cup sliced button mushrooms

  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup thickly sliced and pitted kalamata olives

  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion

  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno, serrano, or green Thai chiles

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed

Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl, cover, and allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

Cook the pasta until done and drain. Add to the salsa and toss to coat.

Yield: 2 servings

Heat Scale: Medium Hot



Sun-Dried Tomato and Chipotle Pesto

Ancho or pasilla chiles can be substituted for the fiery chipotles if you desire a milder sauce. I’ve even used this pesto on pizza in place of the more traditional tomato sauce for a hot, south of the border taste.

  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained reserving the oil

  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley

  • ½ cup pine nuts

  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh preferred

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Garnish: Sliced black olives

Put the parsley and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and pulse to finely chop. Add the pine nuts, shallots, garlic, vinegar, chipoltes, and lemon juice and continue to pulse.

Measure the reserved oil and add olive oil to make 1/4 cup. With the machine running, slowly add just enough of the oil to make a smooth sauce. If the pesto is too dry, add a little more oil and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until done. Reserve a 1/4 cup of the cooking water and add to the pesto to thin the sauce and make it more creamy.

Put the pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the pesto and toss to coat. Garnish with the olives and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

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