Bright tomatoes, fresh basil, and aromatic garlic and onions make this simple and elegant Tomato Basil Pasta really shine. Add a drizzle of balsamic glaze for a touch of sweetness. Ready in just 20 minutes and oil-free!
Fill a large pot ¾ full with water (with an optional pinch of salt). Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Add your pasta of choice to the pot, turn down heat just a little to avoid overspill. Cook to al dente, according to package instructions (it can vary depending on the type of pasta). Set a timer so that you don't overcook the pasta.
While the water is starting to heat up, begin heating a heavy-bottom, nonstick pan. Peel and slice a medium-sized onion into strips. Add them with a pinch of salt to the skillet so that they start to sweat out.
Peel 6 cloves of garlic. I like to roughly chop 4 of the cloves and use a Microplane to grate 2 of the cloves. You could also use a garlic press.
When the onions are translucent, turn the heat down to medium and add to the garlic to the skillet. Stir to combine. Keep a close eye on the garlic so that it doesn't burn. Let the garlic sear for 1 or 2 minutes and then add ¼ cup of the hot pasta water to the skillet.
Wash the tomatoes and add to the skillet whole. Add an additional ¼ cup water to the skillet. Let the tomatoes soften up (3 to 4 minutes). Use a tomato masher to gently press the tomatoes so that they "pop" and release thier juices into the sauce.
Season your tomato sauce with pantry spices. (I recommend 1 tbsp dried oregano, ½ teaspoon salt (optional), and fresh cracked pepper.) Tear or chop half of your basil leaves and add to the sauce. Add the balsamic glaze. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes longer and then remove from heat.
When your pasta is al dente, set aside ¼ cup of the pasta water (you might not need it all). Remove the pasta from heat and strain the water. Add the pasta back to the pot with a few tablespoons of the hot water (to keep it from sticking).
Taste your tomato sauce and adjust the seasonings if necessary. You can also add more of the hot pasta water to the sauce if needed.
Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and use tongs to gently combine. Garnish with the rest of the basil (whole, torn, or ribboned) and another drizzle of balsamic glaze. Other garnish options include chili flakes, vegan parmesan, or nutritional yeast.
Serve and enjoy right away.
If you want to bump up the protein, I sometimes add white beans. Choose your favorite, rinse, drain, and add after you smash the tomatoes.
For an even more flavorful kick, you could also add a handful of pitted kalamata olives.
This dish works best with ripe tomatoes, so if you're cooking this out of season, canned or jarred cherry tomatoes might be a better option.
I used whole wheat linguine, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. Spaghetti, Penne, and Bow Tie are all great options.
This could also work as a make-ahead pasta salad to eat cold for lunch. In that case, I would use a shorter, sturdier pasta like bow tie or penne.
Keyword oil-free tomato basil pasta, tomato basil pasta, vegan pasta