There is something truly glorious about spaghetti and tomato sauce. When I am tired, or feeling uninspired, or just in need of a little comfort, it’s one of the easiest things to whip up from store-cupboard ingredients and still feel like you’ve made a proper meal. While white miso might not be a staple in most kitchens, its addition here adds a wonderfully sweet, salty and umami note that can turn a standard pasta dish into something really quite special.
White miso (also called sweet white miso) is made from fermented soya beans. It’s slightly milder and sweeter than brown or red miso, and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. You can find it in larger supermarkets and wholefood shops in the UK, or in Oriental supermarkets. I like Tideford’s version, but Clearspring also do a good one, and both are organic.
If you are questioning whether white miso is worth buying especially, only to use a few spoons and have it languish in the back of the fridge, then let me persuade you otherwise. Firstly, once you’ve made this recipe you’ll be wanting to add a dollop of miso to all your tomato-y sauces going forward. Secondly, it’s surprisingly versatile. There are plenty of recipes which use it in salad dressings and stir fries, you can add it to cheesy vegan sauces or gravies, it makes a delicious miso soup. One of my favourite options is Meera Sodha’s recipe for vegan white miso brownies (available on the Guardian website in the UK) which I highly recommend. Thirdly, it’s good for you! Fermented foods are a great sauce of probiotics which are really good for gut health.
But back to the recipe – this really is a doddle to make and I’ll provide options for using fresh and tinned tomatoes. My mum’s tomato plants have been an incontrovertible success this year so we’re overrun, despite giving many away. If you don’t have the luxury of a green-fingered Mother, then good-quality vine tomatoes will do just as well. Otherwise, I’d go for tinned tomatoes – cheaper supermarket tomatoes often taste of very little and you can end up with a watery, flavourless sauce. Tinned tomatoes tend to be more acidic than fresh, but a pinch of sugar can balance this out.
How to make tomato and white miso pasta
The process is quick and easy; even if you’re using fresh tomatoes, the sauce takes pretty much the same amount of time as the pasta to cook.
Put a large pan of generously salted water to boil for the pasta, and while this is heating, make a start on the sauce. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, boil the kettle and put them in a heat-proof bowl or jug. Pour over boiling water so the tomatoes are submerged, and leave for a minute (this will help with removing the skins). In the meantime, finely slice the garlic cloves. Once the tomatoes have had their minute, drain and rinse with cold water, then peel away the skins. Halve the tomatoes, cut out the hard stem, and scoop out the seeds so you are just left with the flesh, then roughly chop.
Add the pasta to the large pan, once the water is at a rolling boil. You can use any pasta you like, but I think spaghetti or linguine works really well. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to packet instructions.
Put a small saucepan over a medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, reduce to medium-low and add the garlic, stirring constantly for 1–2 minutes until the garlic is soft but hasn’t started to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes, or tinned tomatoes and a pinch of sugar, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on a medium–low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and increase the heat to medium for 2–3 minutes, so the sauce reduces a little (if you’re making a big batch it may take a little longer).
If the pasta is done before the sauce is ready, drain it and rinse in cold water, then put back in the pan with a splash of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. Once the tomato sauce has thickened, so that it no longer looks watery, remove from the heat and stir in the white miso. Taste and add a little more miso if you like, some freshly ground pepper, and a little salt if you wish (I find that the addition of the miso makes the sauce salty enough). Tip the pasta into the sauce and stir until coated, then pile into a bowl and add a scattering of toasted pine nuts, or whatever other accouterments you like (vegan parmesan, fresh basil leaves, chopped fresh parsley etc).
Serve with a zingy side salad if you have company, or you’re just feeling proper. Or, in my case, shove greedily into your mouth while watching TV on the sofa – the white miso and pine nuts mean it’s still totally sophisticated.
If you give this recipe a go I would love to hear how you get on! You can comment below or find me on Twitter or Instagram @greedybearbakes.
Tomato and White Miso Pasta
Pasta and tomato sauce, but a little bit special
Vegan. Gluten-free option, Nut-free option
- 100g dried spaghetti or linguini (gluten-free if necessary, or other pasta of choice)
- 250–300g large vine tomatoes (or 200g chopped tinned tomatoes plus a pinch of sugar)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ tsp white miso paste (I use Tideford’s}
- salt, for the pasta water, and black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts* (optional)
- Put a large pot of generously salted water on to boil.
- If using fresh tomatoes, boil the kettle, place 250g–300g tomatoes in a heat-proof bowl and submerge with boiling water. Leave for a minute or two, and in the meantime slice the 2 garlic very finely. Drain the tomatoes and rinse in cold water, then peel off the skins. Halve, remove the seeds, and cut away the tough green stalks, and roughly chop the flesh.
- Once the pasta water is boiling, add 100g pasta, and cook until al dente, according to packet instructions.
- Put a small saucepan over a medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. Once hot, reduce the heat to medium–low and add the garlic. Stir for 1–2 minutes until soft and fragrant, but not browning. Add the chopped tomatoes (and a generous pinch of sugar if using tinned), bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium–low and cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium, and cook the sauce for another 2–3 minutes until reduced slightly**.
- Once the pasta is done, drain, rinse in cold water, and add a splash of olive oil to prevent it sticking together. When the tomato sauce is no longer watery, remove from the heat and stir in 1½ tsp white miso paste, and a little freshly ground black pepper. Taste the sauce and add a little more miso if necessary, or a pinch of salt (I found the miso to be salty enough)
- Tip the pasta into the sauce and stir until coated, and serve immediately with a scattering of pine nuts and a crisp, zingy side salad, or accompaniment of choice.
*Instead of pine nuts you could use a vegan parmesan. Fresh basil leaves or chopped fresh parsley would also work well.
**The specified quantities are for one person and if you make a bigger batch, it may take a few more minutes for the sauce to reduce. You want it at the point where it’s reasonably thick and cohesive, rather than a mixture of tomato chunks and water.