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Cavatappi Pasta with Yellow Tomato Sauce

Katie Stilo
Cook Time:
30 mins
Prep Time:
20 mins

Chef notes

A tomato sauce can really come along and change everything. I have used the same basic tomato sauce recipe that I learned from my parents since I can remember. It's more of a vinaigrette than a sauce. The thick texture comes from the blending of the oil and the pectin and flesh of the fresh tomatoes. This is the only sauce I have ever felt does justice to fresh summer tomatoes.

Swap options: If you can't find cavatappi (which means "corkscrews"), substitute with penne or farfalle pasta. You can also make this dish vegan by omitting the grated cheese on top.


  • 5-6 medium yellow beefsteak tomatoes, washed, core removed and a small "x" drawn on the bottom of each with a knife
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound dry pasta, such as Cavatappi
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese



Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt the water generously. Use a slotted spoon to plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 1 to 2 minutes. The skin should show evidence of peeling away (slightly) from the flesh of the tomatoes. Remove them from the water and drain them on a kitchen towel.


In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oregano and sugar. Stir to blend. Allow to cook, over low heat, until the shallots and garlic become tender and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.


Meanwhile, peel off and discard the skin from each tomato. Place them on a flat surface and quarter them. Add the tomatoes to the shallot mixture and stir in about 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the tomato flesh starts to lose shape, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The tomato sauce, at this point, should be soft and blender-ready. If there are still some hard pieces of tomato, add a little more water and cook for a few additional minutes. Taste for seasoning.


In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Add the pasta to the pot and stir so it doesn't stick to the bottom as it cooks. Cook the pasta until al dente, chewy but not hard or raw-tasting, 8 to 10 minutes, and drain the pasta in a colander, reserving a little pasta water in case you need it later.


Put the tomato sauce in the blender and puree until smooth. Slowly add the vinegar through the top of the blender as the sauce is blending. Next, pour the remaining olive oil through the top in a slow, steady stream. Blend in another cup of water then remove the sauce from the blender and taste for seasoning.


Pour most of the sauce into a large skillet and add the pasta. Toss to blend with a wooden spoon. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta liquid to thin it out. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with lots of cheese.