No-Cook Sicilian-Style Tomato Pasta Sauce

No-Cook Tomato Pasta Sauce |

I predict that you get about one paragraph into this blog post and decide that this dish is not for you. Or that, even if it might work for you, it definitely won’t please the littlest mouths in your house. I’m going to guess that if you skipped straight ahead to the recipe, and scanned the list of ingredients (resist; don’t do it!!), you’d click about as far away from here as you could go: “Oh, blech, no way not in my house,” you’d likely think, if not say out loud.

But I urge you to read on, and try this recipe out. Because this dish is so so soooooo much more than the sum of its parts. Seemingly incompatible and—depending on who you ask—even objectionable ingredients (anchovies, capers, and raisins, among them!) turn plain old pasta into a simple, summery, tomatoey sensation.

No-Cook Tomato Pasta Sauce |

It’s worth making it just to watch your three year old (or finicky eater of any age, really) demolish a plate of pasta coated in anchovies and capers. As soon as I told the Bean that it was “pasta with tomato sauce” she was all over it like a monkey on a cupcake. (That’s an expression, right? Right.)

Best of all, you can transform this motley crew of ingredients into dinner in about the time it takes to cook a pot of pasta. And without any chopping, simmering or sauteing, either. Just whiz everything up in a food processor, and then stir it into warm cooked pasta. Perfect hot weather fare.

I adapted this recipe from Nigella. My version is not a whole lot different than hers, but I revised it just to make it a bit simpler, and to use a standard US dry pint of cherry tomatoes, rather than the 8 ounces specified in the original recipe.

A few notes from the kitchen:

  •  No matter how averse you are or think you are, do not (I repeat: do NOT!) leave out the anchovies. If you do, this dish will suck, and you will blame me. You won’t taste the anchovies, I promise.
  • Do NOT leave out the capers, either. I hate capers, but I love this pasta. Just trust me on this.
  • Be sure to use the best, best tomatoes you can possibly find. I have made this with awesome, sweet ripe tomatoes, and with kinda crappy picked-8-weeks-ago tomatoes, and there was no comparison. Get the best you can find.
  • I like to make this dish with the long curly corkscrew-like noodles that Nigella calls for in the original recipe, because I can’t quite imagine anything more kid-tastic. But I’ve also made it with a paper thin dried fettuccine, and that was excellent, too. Just about any noodle with a good surface area (i.e. not spaghetti) will do here.
  • No, this does not fit into Kiwi’s low carb diet. But life is short, and no one wants to leave this world with pasta regrets. Right, my love?

No-Cook Tomato Pasta Sauce |

No-Cook Sicilian-Style Tomato Pasta Sauce

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Adapted from Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes, by Nigella Lawson


  • 1 pint ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, at room temperature (see notes below)
  • 6 anchovy filets (see notes below)
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound dry pasta (see notes below)
  • Sea salt, to taste


  1. Combine everything but the pasta in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is almost smooth. (You are going for a pesto-like consistency.)
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente (i.e. not soft), according to the package directions. When you drain it, reserve about a cup of the cooking water.
  3. Toss 3/4 of the hot pasta with the sauce, adding some of the pasta cooking water to loosen everything up. If the dish is too saucy at this point, add the rest of the cooked pasta.
  4. Season with salt, to taste. (I have never had to add salt; the anchovies and capers leave it plenty salty, I find.)


If you are using tomatoes from the fridge (which, I am told, is never a good idea), bring them to room temperature first. You don't want to end up with a cold sauce.

I like to buy the anchovies that are packed in oil in small jars. You can usually find them in the fish section of the grocery store. They last for quite a long time in the fridge, and can be used to add awesome flavour to a host of different foods. Check Jamie Oliver's website---he loves him some anchovies!

The original recipe called for 1 1/4 pounds of "fusilli lunghi" (basically long curly-hair-like noodles), which I found to be too much, particularly if you like your pasta a bit on the saucier side. I'm suggesting that you cook 1 pound of pasta, toss 3/4 of it with the sauce, and then add as much of the remaining cooked pasta as you need to achieve the right-for-you ratio of sauce to pasta. As I mentioned above, if you can't find or don't want to use the fusilli lunghi, you can sub in any noodle that has a decent surface area (e.g. rotini, fusilli, fettuccine).

If you make the sauce in advance, or find yourself with leftovers, refrigerate them in a sealed container and then bring the sauce to room temperature (or heat briefly on the stove just to take the edge off without cooking the tomatoes), and then toss with hot pasta.

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