I made Ina Garten’s easy summer pasta dish and it reminded me of dinners in Italy

Insider

  • Ina Garten recently shared the recipe for her summer garden pasta. 
  • I made the dish, which only requires a few easy steps, at home.
  • I marinated my tomatoes and basil in olive oil for four hours — and the wait was definitely worth it.
  • The noodles only took five minutes to make, and the delicious dish required barely any prep or cleanup. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over these last few months, no one has influenced me more in the kitchen than Ina Garten.

From cosmos before noon to roasted potatoes that broke the internet, the "Barefoot Contessa" star has been a constant source of inspiration. 

So when Garten posted the recipe for her favorite summer pasta, I knew I had to give it a go. 

Not only was her dish one of the easiest recipes I've ever made, its rich and delicious flavors instantly brought back treasured memories of dinners I had enjoyed in Italy years ago.

Ina Garten has been sharing simple recipes on her Instagram over the last few months.

One of the reasons why Garten has become my favorite chef to follow during quarantine is that she's keenly aware of her fans' own kitchen fatigue. 

When I lived like the "Barefoot Contessa" star for a day, I was surprised to feel relaxed while cooking her recipes — even when I was juggling three different dishes.

So when Garten posted about her summer garden pasta on Instagram earlier this month, I decided to test it out. 

Garten's summer garden pasta requires just five main ingredients.

To whip up her delicious dish, you'll need: 

  • Angel hair pasta 
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes 
  • Minced garlic 
  • Basil leaves

For seasoning, you'll also need "good" olive oil (Garten wouldn't have it any other way!), plus salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. 

Before I got started, I made sure to put on one of Garten's Spotify playlists.

Garten knows that music is essential to a good dinner party, and her soothing tunes are also great for background music when you're working away in the kitchen. 

Since I was making Garten's favorite summer pasta, I opted for her "Barefoot Contessa Beach Party" playlist to get me in the mood. 

As The Shirelles began to croon, I began to prep. 

I started by halving the cherry tomatoes, the stars of this pasta dish.

While Garten's summer garden pasta only has a few simple steps, you can't whip it all up right before dinner. To immerse the tomatoes with flavor, Garten marinates them in her special mixture for four hours before serving. So plan ahead! 

Garten's recipe calls for four pints of cherry tomatoes to serve six. I was making a much smaller portion, so I cut the recipe in half. 

Then I chopped up the garlic and basil.

Per Garten's recipe, I minced three cloves of garlic and julienned nine basil leaves. 

By placing all the basil leaves on top of each other and slicing through them a few times, I was done julienning in a matter of seconds. 

This is really the extent of prep you need for the entire dish. I was already almost done, and barely two songs on Garten's playlist had finished. 

Next, I threw everything into a bowl.

I added the halved cherry tomatoes first, then the garlic and basil, sprinkling everything with half a teaspoon of salt, some red pepper flakes, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.

To top everything off, I soaked the mixture in olive oil.

Garten's recipe calls for half a cup of olive oil. While I was meant to cut her recipe in half, I still opted for ⅓ cup.

After all, my Greek parents always taught me that there's no such thing as too much olive oil. 

I gave everything a good mix and then covered the bowl with plastic wrap.

Garten recommends letting the mixture sit for about four hours. And don't pop it in the fridge! 

The bowl needs to stay at room temperature, so just find a good spot for it in your kitchen. 

Just before the four hours were up, I started cooking my pasta.

I brought a pot of water to a boil, adding olive oil and salt per Garten's instructions. 

Then I threw in the angel hair noodles.

Garten offers a helpful reminder in her recipe: Since angel hair pasta is so thin, it cooks much faster than other types of pasta. 

"Cook al dente according to the directions on the package," she advises. "Be careful — it only takes two to three minutes!" 

As the pasta cooked, I decided to quickly check on my tomato mixture.

I took off the plastic wrap and was instantly hit with a delicious scent, reminiscent of a plate of bruschetta.

With a smell so fresh and crisp, I understood why Garten decided to throw "garden" into the name of her dish. 

After three minutes were up, I checked to see if my pasta was ready.

I took a strand of angel hair in my ladle, splashed it with some cold water over the sink, and bit into the noodle to check if it was al dente. 

Unsatisfied, I placed another minute on the timer and then checked again. After five total minutes of cooking, my angel hair noodles were perfect. 

I drained my pasta and threw the noodles into a bowl with the tomato mixture.

I followed Garten's advice and added freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves before tossing everything together. 

The dish was beautiful, and it tasted just as good as it looked.

To be honest, I could write 1,000 words on how much I loved those tomatoes. Marinating in Garten's mixture for four hours had injected them with a rich and intense flavor. I couldn't stop snacking on them as I tossed the pasta together. I'd definitely make these tomatoes again for a cheese plate or Greek salad as well. 

The angel hair pasta was the perfect foundation for this dish. I almost just used some spaghetti I had lying around since I don't generally cook with angel hair, but after my first bite I completely understood why Garten recommends it for this dish. The airy and fluffy noodles balance out the richness of the tomatoes perfectly, ensuring that the pasta is still light — exactly what you want on a hot summer night. 

I also realized why adding olive oil to the pasta water is essential to the recipe. There has long been a debate on whether you should add olive oil to your pasta water, as it can make it more difficult for sauce to stick to the noodles. But since Garten's dish doesn't really have a sauce — just the tomato mixture — the olive oil gives the angel hair a nice slickness, and adds an extra dimension of flavor.

I'll definitely be making Garten's summer garden pasta again, even when the season comes to an end.

While I'm a huge fan of pasta dishes drenched in heavy meat sauces, I loved how Garten's pasta was simple yet rich. And it was so easy to put together, with just two steps: prepping the mixture, and cooking the pasta. I only had to clean a few dishes, and the actual cooking time took less than 10 minutes. 

Not bad for a dish that reminded me of the incredibly cheap (but delicious) dishes that I ate in Italy during a summer trip with friends years ago. After so many months cooped up at home, it was nice to reminisce on those travel memories again. All I needed was an Aperol spritz. 

Read more:

I lived like Ina Garten in lockdown for a day and it was the most fun I've had in quarantine

I tried Ina Garten's famous cosmopolitan, and now I understand why she makes it at 9 a.m.

I tried Emily Blunt's English roasted potatoes after they crashed Ina Garten's website, and it's one of the tastiest dishes I've ever made

I'm a terrible cook and even I could make this Michelin-starred chef's favorite spaghetti recipe

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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