Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherry Tomato Sauce

Sometimes one needs comfort food, even in the midst of a hot, dry summer. For me, comfort food has always been pasta of some sort -- maybe because it was always my mother's welcome-home food of choice. Or maybe it's the combination of carbs and cheese. Or just maybe it's because you can sit down to a steaming bowl of pasta with butter, garlic, and parmesan within say, ten minutes or so of realizing you're starving. Whichever, I was hungry for pasta. And I wanted something more substantial than a seasonally appropriate fresh, barely cooked tomato sauce.

Luckily that day was Copley Square farmers' market day in Boston. The Atlas Farm people had a lovely selection of cherry tomatoes -- and I had a recipe I was eager to try: Nancy Harmon Jenkins' Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce, which I found courtesy of the food blog Wednesday's Chef.

Basically, you cut the cherry tomatoes in half, then top them with a mixture of dried bread crumbs, minced garlic, and parmesan and pecorino romano cheeses. I beg you, do not under any circumstance use the kind of dried breadcrumbs that come pre-packed in a tin. Make them yourself, as they provide an essential taste and texture to the dish. Once you make sure the bread crumb mixture has compeltely permeated the tomatoes, you bake them until they just start to brown on top.

Meanwile, cook some pasta. (I was lucky enough to have some fresh tomato basil spaghetti from Terra Cotta Pasta of Kittery Point, Maine in the fridge.) The only trick is to try and time the cooking of the sauce and the pasta so that both are done together. Just before serving, you toss the pasta and tomato mixture together with some torn basil leaves and enough olive oil to make a bit of a sauce, and you've got a feast that will no doubt leave you feeling very comforted, indeed.

The recipe says it serves four -- but I found it made a lovely dinner for one, with enough leftovers for a very satisfying lunch.

Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce ala Nancy Harmon Jenkins
from Wednesday’s Chef
Serves 4

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used about half that)
1 pound very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (Remember, no pre-packaged stuff!)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino (or, if you don't have this, just more Parmigiano)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried penne or spaghetti
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with one-third of the oil. Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheeses, and garlic and toss with a fork to mix well. Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Time the pasta so it finishes cooking about the time the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven.

4. When the tomatoes are done, add the basil and stir vigorously to mix everything into a sauce. Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to the baking dish. Add the remaining olive oil and mix well. Serve at once.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea! I was looking for some yummy ideas for all my cherry tomatoes!