There are home cooks who embrace spontaneity, eschew recipes, and thrive with a “oh, I just tossed this together” vibe. Then there are fans of J. Kenji López-Alt, for whom no dish is too simple for precise directions and exacting technique.
As the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of The Food Lab (which grew out of a column on Serious Eats by the same name), López-Alt’s approach is scientific: He embraces the recipe development process, not just recipes per se, and why a recipe works the way it does. That’s why his writing focuses so much on techniques and explanations; as he told Eater back in 2016, “You can follow the recipes as written, but I like to think of it more as handing someone a map that lets them then decide their own path.”
Which is also why Kenji’s gained a reputation for tackling down some of the simplest dishes and foods — chocolate chip cookies, boiled eggs — and breaking them down into their precise, technical elements. The cooking expert is joining Eater’s Instagram Live to demo a simple pasta recipe, requiring only five ingredients and a total 15 minutes to prepare. Tune in Tuesday, June 30, at 4:30 p.m. ET — and before you do, grab the ingredients below so you can cook alongside Kenji.
Five-Ingredient, 15-Minute Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
2 ripe beefsteak or 4 Roma tomatoes, cut in half
Handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
200g (7 ounce) long pasta (like spaghetti or bucatini)
You’ll also need:
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
A 12-inch skillet
A 3-quart saucier (or a medium saucepan or 10-inch skillet)
A box grater
A mortar and pestle (optional)
Cheese like pecorino Romano or Parmesan for serving (optional)
Step 1: Bring a wide saucepan of lightly salted water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook for two minutes less than the package indicates.
Step 2: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a 3-quart saucier or 10- to 12-sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook, stirring until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
Step 3: Using the flat of your palm, press the cut side of the tomatoes through the large holes of a box grater held over the saucier or sauté pan. Grate until only the tomato skin remains in your hand, then discard. Repeat with all the tomato halves. Cook the tomato mixture at a hard simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is ready.
Step 4: Drain pasta, reserving a cup of liquid, then add directly to the pan with the tomato mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until the sauce reduces to a creamy emulsion that coats the pasta, adding additional pasta water as necessary to adjust texture. Stir in an extra drizzle of olive oil, the basil leaves, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing grated Parmesan at the table.
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Food writer and recipe developer @kenjilopezalt is known for sharing easy, flavorful recipes with precise techniques. The cooking expert is showing us how to cook a simple five-ingredient tomato pasta that only takes 15 minutes to prepare. Get the recipe that's perfect for the season: https://www.eater.com/2020/6/29/21304787/kenji-lopez-alt-pasta-recipe-tomato-five-ingredients