Raw tomatoes are among the greatest gifts to late summer cooking. Colorful and delicious, they bring a sense of joy to so many summer recipes. Here, I use roughly chopped tomatoes to make a seasonal sauce for this whole wheat spaghetti recipe. A favorite summer dish in my house, it’s a healthy, fresh and easy way to do spaghetti in red sauce on a hot, summer night.
How to make this healthy whole wheat pasta with a homemade sauce
This healthy spaghetti recipe is incredibly simple. You’re going to love how quickly you can make the raw tomato sauce recipe. And you’ll love the flavor and texture contrast between the whole wheat noodles and the bright, acidic sauce.
Of course, the first thing you need to do is make the raw tomato sauce.
What is a raw tomato sauce?
What most of us know as tomato sauce is a slow-cooked sauce rich with the flavors of tomato and garlic, blended with herbs and spices. It is cooked low and slow until it bubbles and thickens and the bright, sweetness of the tomato shines. That is a very different sauce than the one we’re about to make!
Although there is always a place for a slow-cooked marinara, raw tomato pasta sauce is a tomato recipe every pasta lover should experience in summer. That’s because this raw sauce is designed to showcase the fresh juices of sun-kissed, summer tomatoes balanced by a touch of garlic and herbs.
It’s the quality of the tomatoes that makes this sauce one of my favorite summer recipes. It’s a fresh tomato spaghetti sauce recipe that, when the weather is right, is exactly what you should bring to the table for a low-stress, date night dinner.
Why you can only make raw spaghetti sauce in summer
This pasta dish relies on the finest fruits of the season. (Yes, tomato is a fruit.) It must only be made when tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness. You can use a variety of garden-ripe tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, as long as they’re at the peak of ripeness.
In winter the tomatoes available at the market are a sad shadow of the sensual, crimson summer fruit we can enjoy this time of year. Winter tomatoes are, at best sweet although restrained in flavor with skin as tough as a rhinoceros pelt.
And at worst, they’re mealy, mushy with an interior the greyish-pink color of a nursing home infirmary. So that’s why in winter I prefer my tomatoes reduced down into a rich, spice-filled sauce, not a sauce made with thick-skinned, raw fruits.
But when tomatoes are at their peak, I just want to showcase them in the raw. I love to let their natural sweetness and tangy juices shine.
How to make this a vegan pasta dish
One of the nicest things about this tomato sauce beyond the freshness of the flavor is the fact that this simple, effortless seeming sauce fits easily into a plant-based diet. By simply omitting the Parmesan cheese, this dish is entirely vegan.
You can serve this raw pasta sauce with whatever pasta you prefer. The most common choice is a short pasta with ridges, like ziti or tubes like penne. That’s because sauce tends to cling to these shapes.
But I like to serve it with whole wheat spaghetti. That’s because whole wheat pasta absorbs more liquid than a white flour pasta will. So in the spaghetti shape, I find the pasta absorbs just the right amount of sauce. Plus using spaghetti leaves an opportunity for a Lady and the Tramp moment. And whole wheat pasta also brings extra nutrition and flavor to the dish.
You can make a gluten-free version of this summer pasta recipe using a brown rice or quinoa pasta, or choose your favorite gluten-free spaghetti.
Tips for making thicker raw spaghetti sauce
I do not drain any of the tomato liquid, also known as tomato water, for this recipe. This means, depending on your tomatoes, your raw pasta sauce can be quite thin.
You can strain out some of the water if you like a thicker sauce. Simply add the chopped tomatoes to a strainer over a bowl before tossing them with the other ingredients. Let them strain for about five minutes before continuing to step three of the instructions.
Do not discard the tomato water! It is surprisingly delicious on its own as an almost calorie-free shot of soup or palate cleanser.
When to serve this whole wheat spaghetti recipe
This recipe is great for family dinner. It’s healthy, tasty and is one of those dinner recipes that can be on the table in less than half an hour. But I would also like to suggest that it might play a starring role in your next date night.
Did you know that tomatoes are considered aphrodisiacs? In fact, some historians believe that the tomato, not the apple, may have been the original fruit of temptation. (Others theorize it is the fig, but we’ll explore the aphrodisiac history of figs another day.) You can learn more about the aphrodisiac potential of tomatoes in my Guide to Aphrodisiac Foods.
In the meantime, I challenge you to experience them at their peak with this raw tomato sauce recipe, also known as Salsa Cruda di Pomodoro. Whisper that to your lover as you sit a plate of spaghetti in homemade raw tomato sauce in front of them and I think you will be pleased with the results.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce
- 1 ½ lbs ripe garden tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic optional
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp fresh garlic chives use regular chives if the garlic variety is unavailable
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp coarse salt
- pinch black pepper
- ½ tsp granulated sugar optional
- ½ lb whole wheat spaghetti*
- 1 tsp olive oil
- approx. 4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan for serving
- Wash the tomatoes and divide out one-third. Take that third and pulse it in a food processor or heavy duty blender, (I use a Vitamix), until it’s frothy soup. If you like your pasta sauce particularly garlicky, you can add the clove of garlic here and pulse until fully pureed.
- Core the other two thirds of the tomatoes and chop into ½ inch pieces.
- Toss the chopped tomatoes into a mixing bowl with the pureed tomatoes, basil, garlic chives, tarragon, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. If your tomatoes aren’t peak-of-the-season sweet and juicy, you may want to add the sugar. But ripe, in-season tomatoes should be sweet enough on their own.
- Gently toss the mixture to fully incorporate and adjust seasoning to your personal taste. The tomato sauce can be prepared in advance and rest at room temperature until serving time.
- Make the pasta according to the package instructions, cooking to al dente.
- Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the olive oil then top with the raw tomato sauce.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkle of parmesan. (I recommend a tablespoon per serving but adjust to suit your preferences.)
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