Don’t Throw Out That Tomato Water!!

Tomato Water LOWRES

I was totally and utterly WRONG. No doubt about it.

I have noticed a few recipes that have, over the past month, called for the use of ‘tomato water’. In reading further, tomato water is simply that red-hued tasty liquid that spills from your ripe tomatoes. Being the skeptical type, I first brushed off the idea of giving it a go as something trendy and fussy.

When the summer bounties of tomatoes ripen in the garden, a staple around our house is a very simple sauté of garlic, fresh tomato, and a dash of red pepper over a heap of pasta. Simple. Quick. Delicious. But a girl who likes to cook can only eat this dish for so long without a desire to experiment. I needed a bit of inspiration. It was then I decided to give the tomato water a try. I chopped up a bunch of tomatoes, gave them a healthy dose of salt, threw in some basil and let them sit for about 30 minutes while I prepped the rest of the dish. Checking back, I glared skeptically at the pink uninspiring liquid staring back at me. Then that subtle tomato scent hit me – the very essense of summer in a little bowl. And it elevated my pasta to an entirely new level – seriously elevated. Each little pasta strand was coated in a little bit of tomato heaven.

For this recipe, I started with Michael Ruhlman’s Pasta with Tomato Water and Basil. You can’t modify greatness – I changed only slightly to accommodate my tastes – a tad less butter and salt, added a bit of shrimp for protein. Be sure to add the pasta to the tomato water sauce in the pan to allow it so soak up all the delicious vibrant goodness. The fresh uncooked tomatoes make for a very quick weeknight dinner. The addition of the tomato water turns this dish into a summer stunner sure to impress. Feel free to substitute – omit the shrimp, change up the herbs, maybe toss in some vino with the tomato water.

I am now on the hunt for other uses for my newly found intensely flavored friend. I can see giving this a try in vinaigrette, as a substitute for stock or perhaps as a poaching liquid for shrimp. In fact, you may find me this evening in my favorite summer chair sipping a cocktail made of tomato water and vodka while I plot out my uses for this vibrant nectar. Happy Summer!

Buon appetito!



Shrimp and Fresh Tomato Pasta with Tomato Water and Basil

Adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Pasta with Tomato Water and Basil

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound summer ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional
  • ½ cup basil, cut into chiffonade (fancy way for saying cut into thin ribbons)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound thin pasta (angel hair, thin linguini, pick your favorite)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons butter


Chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add the basil. Toss well and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Place shrimp in a bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain, place back in the pot and drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Heat until hot (but not smoking). Add in the shrimp and sauté, turning once, until just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp. Turn the heat to medium low. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

Add the garlic to the oil remaining in the skillet along with the red pepper. Cook until the garlic is soft, about 1-2 minutes.

Over the skillet, pour the tomatoes into a fine mesh strainer so that the tomato water is added to the sauce. Set the tomatoes and strainer aside. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the butter to the skillet. Stir until melted.

Add in the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta evenly. Add the shrimp and tomato/basil mixture. Stir. If too dry, add a bit of pasta water to moisten.

Serve and enjoy!







Join the Conversation

  1. Christina Pedota Polidore says:

    Michele, You write with such color, passion and energy….always a joy to read your posts!

    1. Michele Author says:

      Christina – Thank you so much for the kind words! grazie grazie! Michele

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