spaghetti with cheese, black pepper and tomatoes

Sometimes the most delicious meals come together when you don’t really mean them to. For months I had been coveting this spaghetti from Smitten Kitchen. It looked easy, delicious, and perfect for a last-minute supper since I usually keep all of the ingredients on hand. But while visiting the local farmer’s market one afternoon, I also began coveting these heirloom tomatoes.

Juicy, ripe, and half off (half off!) because of some minor imperfections. Being once bitten, twice shy about some $12 heirlooms last summer that were mushy as applesauce, I was pleased as pie when I took this whole bag home for $2. I thought that the cool juiciness of the tomatoes would be perfect atop the warm, peppery spaghetti.

It’s a simple dish to prepare: boil spaghetti then toss with olive oil, butter, pasta water, cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper. I’d recommend starting with high quality ingredients since each flavor stands out—nothing is masked in a heavy sauce and a crappy batch of pasta would ruin the whole dish. So use good spaghetti, a hunk of parmigiano reggiano, pepper that has just been ground, and ripe summer tomatoes.

I adored the peppery richness of the noodles spiked with the sweet ripeness of the tomatoes. It transported this dish from comfort food to summer in a bowl. I’m already plotting what I’ll top it with for the rest of the seasons: wild mushrooms in the fall, squash in the winter, and asparagus in the spring.

I’ve reached seasonal pasta nirvana. Come join me.


Spaghetti with Cheese, Black Pepper and Tomatoes, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This pasta is completely Deb’s recipe—all I did was add the tomatoes. She is a culinary genius and I am a lowly weirdo who adds cold tomatoes to hot dishes. Serves 4.

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely grated black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 3-4 small heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1″ chunks

Boil the spaghetti until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on high until almost smoking. Toss in the drained spaghetti and 1 1/4 of the pasta water and stir (Deb recommends to stand back during this step and I fully agree. My pot was snapping, crackling and popping! An apron, if you don’t normally cook with one, is also a good idea since some of the olive oil may spatter). Stir in the butter, pepper, cheese and salt to taste. If it looks a bit dry to you, add a bit more of the pasta water. Top with the tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve immediately to hungry people who like pasta.

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