Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe has lately been a favorite of mine. Really, though, it's one of those recipes that's so simple that it probably shouldn't even be called a 'recipe.' It's particularly nice for those nights when you don't really feel like cooking dinner, but would feel like too much of a slacker were you to just throw something in the microwave.

And don't worry too much about the fact that it's no longer technically tomato season--cherry tomatoes are frequently quite satisfactory even in the off-months. The tomatoes, once they've been gently roasted, become concentrated in flavor, and the slight charring adds both flavor and sweetness. The garlic cloves and chile de arbol lend the dish a nice piquancy, and the fresh herbs add some brightness. With some good olive oil and maybe a bit of dried spices, the result is pasta heaven.

You'll notice that I called for a handful of fresh herbs, but did not specify any particular type of herb. I usually use basil, thyme, and oregano, and I've also found that parsley and a bit of rosemary work nicely. You could also try marjoram, sorrel, and savory. That's one of the things that I like so much about this recipe--you can use any herbs that you happen to have lying around, and the result will be delicious.

If you feel like being extra spiffy, you can grate some bottarga over the top before serving. Bottarga is the cured roe sack of a tuna or mullet, and it's highly prized in Italy. I recently aquired some because the fact that I had never tried it was driving me crazy. As to whether it was worth the price, the jury is still out--it tasted and smelled a bit like Nick's fish tank, but not in a bad way. I think that it will grow on me, and in any case, I was not going to be able to let the idea go until I tried it. If you feel like trying bottarga, or if you already have some, this is exactly the kind of dish with which it's usually eaten.

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 2
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 garlic cloves, separated but unpeeled
  • 1 chile de arbol, broken in half
  • A handful of fresh herbs
  • 8 ounces pasta, the shape of your choice
  • Optional: Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes
  • Optional: Bottarga
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice each tomato in half and place them on a sheet pan that's been lined with foil or parchment. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Scatter the garlic cloves and chile de arbol in amongst the tomatoes.

Scatter the herbs over the tomatoes and roast in the center of the oven, until the tomatoes are shriveled and are brown at the edges, about 40 minutes. (Depending on the tomatoes, though, this can take 35-55 minutes.) The tomatoes will look something like this when they initially go into the oven.

When the tomatoes look like they're getting soft, put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a heavy sprinkling of Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes, if you're using them.

Divide the pasta between two plates. Remove the garlic cloves and herbs from the tomatoes, and cover each bowl of pasta with half of the tomatoes. If desired, grate bottarga over each plate.

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