This is the perfect dish for a weeknight dinner in late summer. The recipe calls for only a handful of ingredients that can be pulled together in the time it takes to boil water.
Tomatoes are the star of this show, as they should be this time of the year. They're so good as is that they don't even need to be cooked. Obviously, we could cook them and turn them into a sauce, but we'd be kissing off some of their freshness and all of their crunch. Instead, we salt them lightly, which intensifies their flavor and pulls out some of their liquid. This "tomato juice" becomes part of the sauce.
After the tomatoes have marinated in salt for 10 minutes, we season them with a little freshly grated lemon zest, a single tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil (this is a dish that requires the really good stuff), and some freshly ground black pepper.
Next it's time to reach for the goat cheese. Combined with hot pasta and a little of the pasta cooking liquid, the cheese melts into a richly creamy sauce without any additional thickener. And I'm talking about full-fat goat cheese, which is relatively lean even as it boasts big flavor.
I recommend using whole-wheat pasta in this recipe, but you're certainly welcome to explore some of the other whole-grain pastas that are now available. If you're gluten-intolerant, you can swap in quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat.
I finished this dish with a liberal sprinkling of herbs. Truthfully, there's scarcely a fresh herb around that doesn't play nicely with tomatoes.
FAST AND FRESH SUMMER PASTA
Yield: 4 servings
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 1-inch pieces) Kosher salt and ground black pepper 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled 8 ounces whole-wheat penne or fusilli pasta 1 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, oregano, mint, dill, chives, cilantro and tarragon)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl toss the tomatoes with a few hefty pinches of salt and some black pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes, then add the lemon zest, oil and goat cheese and toss well.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir and cook according to package instructions until just al dente. Drain the pasta (it's fine to have some water still clinging to the pasta), then add it to the bowl. Toss until the cheese is melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the pasta between 4 serving bowls, then sprinkle each portion with some of the herbs. Serve immediately.