Sometimes I know I'll fall in love with a recipe even before I set out to make it. There are moments in my cookbook reading, magazine page flipping, and RSS feed browsing where a recipe—the title, a photo, or an enticing description—makes me stop and think: “I must make this...immediately!” You just know.
My light bulb moment came during a weekday lunch break when I was huddled inside of a Coffee Bean sipping a tea latte. June and July were strange months in Los Angeles, weather wise. The usual warm, sunny afternoons were replaced by clouds that didn’t seem to be in any rush to leave. Evenings were cool, even a bit breezy. I found myself craving soup, pumpkin, mushrooms. In general, foods associated with fall and winter, not summer.
While browsing food blogs, I ran across this recipe from Luisa at The Wednesday Chef. Scrolling through her post and reading about how often she made this while living in New York, I was falling in love even before taking my first bite. The beauty is that in some ways, this is a perfect summer dish. It won’t disappoint in colder months, but using the freshest, ripest tomatoes during their growing season makes this dish even more perfect. The natural sweetness and roasted flavor of the tomatoes stirred rapidly together with fragrant basil, cheese, and breadcrumbs makes a luxurious sauce. Believe me, you won't want to put down your fork.
PASTA WITH BAKED TOMATOES
Recipe slightly adapted from The Wednesday Chef, via Nancy Harmon Jenkins
I normally add a generous sprinkle of cheese to the top of my pasta, but with the combination of Parmesan and breadcrumbs in the baking dish, it really felt unnecessary. For the sauce, there is no perfect equation. Use at least a pound of tomatoes, if you have them, or enough to cover the bottom of the baking dish in an even layer. If you have more, stack the tomatoes on top of each other. They won't mind.
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup loosely packed 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, cheese, and garlic and stir to combine. Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 30 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.