I tried both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart's favorite simple pasta dishes.
Both Garten's summer garden pasta and Stewart's one-pan pasta rely on just veggies and herbs for their flavor, and have almost identical ingredients.
Garten's recipe requires soaking tomatoes in olive oil for four hours, while Stewart's takes just 20 minutes total.
But the extra step is well worth the wait, as Garten's pasta was far richer and more exciting in flavor.
When I'm searching for something quick and easy for dinner, I always turn to Ina Garten and Martha Stewart for inspiration.
Both women have mastered the art of creating delicious recipes that are still accessible to home chefs at any skill level — even the lowest (like, ahem, me).
And I recently discovered that they each have a popular simple pasta dish with nearly identical ingredients, but very different cooking techniques.
Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart's pasta dishes rely solely on veggies and herbs for their flavor.
Garten shared an Instagram post about her summer garden pasta back in August, while Stewart's one-pan pasta went viral in 2014 —when she demonstrated how to make the dish on her PBS show "Martha Stewart's Cooking School."
Stewart also spoke about the dish when I recently interviewed her, revealing that it's one of her favorite things to make when she has less than 30 minutes to cook.
I've been dealing with major kitchen fatigue after so many months at home, and both Garten and Stewart's quick and easy pastas seemed like great new candidates for my recipe repertoire.
I first made Garten's summer garden pasta, which calls for angel hair and a few simple ingredients.
To whip up Garten's favorite summer pasta, you'll also need:
Red pepper flakes
Garten's recipe also calls for "good" olive oil, which — as you'll see — is a very important component to this dish.
The prep for Garten's summer garden pasta is minimal. All I had to chop were my tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
I halved my cherry tomatoes, minced three cloves of garlic, and julienned nine basil leaves, per Garten's recipe (which I cut in half for three servings instead of six).
I then threw the ingredients into a bowl and seasoned them with half a teaspoon of salt, some red pepper flakes, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.
The main difference between Garten and Stewart's recipes is that you need to plan ahead of time to make the summer garden pasta.
While Garten's dish has very minimal prep, it gets most of its flavor by soaking the tomatoes in olive oil for four hours before serving.
It may seem like a time-consuming step, but I easily whipped up the mix on my lunch break. I soaked everything with ⅓ cup of olive oil, tossed it together, then covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put it to the side (it needs to stay at room temperature).
The whole process took less than five minutes. As Garten would say, how easy is that?
While Garten's recipe calls for more prep time, the actual cooking time is far shorter than what Stewart's one-pan pasta needs.
Garten's summer garden pasta is made with angel hair, which cooks much faster than other types of pasta because it's so thin.
The "Barefoot Contessa" star even warns in her recipe to be extra careful when cooking the noodles because "it only takes two to three minutes!"
My angel hair noodles actually took five minutes before they were perfectly al dente, but I still couldn't believe how speedy the whole cooking process was.
After I drained my pasta, I threw my noodles into a bowl with the tomato mixture.
The minute I took the plastic wrap off the bowl with my tomatoes, I was hit with a deliciously crisp and fresh scent that reminded me of bruschetta.
After tossing everything together, I added freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves on top as well.
Garten's four-hour olive oil marinade was worth the wait.
I couldn't believe how much flavor had been injected into those cherry tomatoes. They were so rich and delicious, I started snacking on them before I even took my first bite of the pasta.
The angel hair noodles were also the perfect base for this dish, balancing out the richness of the tomatoes and olive oil with their fluffiness. It was a nice contrast in both taste and texture that still kept the pasta light — without sacrificing flavor.
Next up was Stewart's one-pan pasta, which has almost the exact same ingredients as Garten's summer garden pasta.
Both Stewart and Garten use cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
But Stewart opts for linguine instead of angel hair pasta for her dish, and she also adds an onion into the mix.
As with Garten's recipe, Stewart's one-pan pasta requires very minimal prep.
I also only needed to chop up three ingredients for Stewart's dish. First I halved the tomatoes, then I just thinly sliced my onion and a few cloves of garlic.
Much like Garten's dish, it only took me five minutes.
But unlike Garten's dish, I was ready to cook Stewart's pasta right after I finished prepping my ingredients.
All you have to do is toss all the ingredients into a pan. You don't even boil the water first!
I threw in the linguine, cherry tomatoes, onion, and garlic into the pan with four-and-a-half cups of water.
Then I added two basil leaves, two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, two teaspoons of salt, and a few twists from my pepper grinder.
I stood back to admire the pan for just a second before I turned on the stove. The colors all looked so fresh and beautiful together, I already had such high hopes.
Stewart's pasta takes far longer to cook than Garten's, but I actually found the whole process to be quite soothing.
After a few minutes passed and the softened noodles became fully submerged in the water, I felt almost tranquil as I delicately turned and flipped them with my tongs.
Within minutes, my entire kitchen filled with the most inviting aroma. My roommate even looked up from his NBA playoff game to exclaim how delicious it smelled.
Stewart's pasta took 20 minutes total to cook.
Per Stewart's recipe, I waited until the water had "nearly evaporated" before I turned off the stove.
Stewart's pasta looked delicious and definitely tasted fresh, but it was just a tad too plain for me.
There was a hint of richness thanks to the olive oil and tomatoes — which had a lovely blistered texture — but there just wasn't much oomph to this pasta.
I was able to get more flavor out of the noodles after adding a lot more pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, but the winner of this showdown was clear.
While Garten's pasta takes a little more forward-planning than Stewart's, the results are definitely worth the wait.
Garten and Stewart's recipes have almost all the same ingredients, but I found the "Barefoot Contessa" star's dish to be packed with more flavor. Her pasta transported me back to the meals I had in Italy during a summer trip with friends years ago, where the pasta was simple and cheap — yet somehow still so rich and delicious. Garten's decision to use angel hair also elevates her dish, providing an interesting contrast in textures that I thought Stewart's pasta lacked with the linguine when I made it.
I'd try Stewart's dish again, but with a few changes. I may use chicken stock instead of water to spice things up, or try sautéing the onions and garlic first to get more flavor out of them.
As Garten's pasta proved, sometimes one or two extra steps can make a world of difference.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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