I’m a fan of Lidia. Her cookbooks are well put together, have great photography and she comes up with some interesting inventive dishes. Most of all, though, I have yet to hit a recipe in Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy that didn’t come out tasting great. This time I had a friend coming down from KC who is a vegetarian, so I needed a interesting meatless dish and I wanted a recipe that wasn’t too complicated. I picked Lidia’s Pasta with Baked Cherry Tomatoes (pasta con pomodori al forno). This is a keeper recipe for sure. It’s a light dish, but very flavorful. Although there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but as is typical in Italian cooking, none of them overpower any other – the tastes are subtle, clearly all present. The really interesting thing about this recipe is that the olive oil-bread crumb-parsley-garlic sauce coats the spaghetti and then, together with the tomatoes, really give the impression of a full bodied typical pasta sauce. Not hard to prepare, a good try-out recipe if you’re willing to give it a whirl.
3 pints cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of olive oil
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
1 pound spaghetti
10 plumb garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
4 oz ricotta
Directions to Prepare the Tomatoes
I’d rate this recipe as fairly simple to put together – the one exception is the shredding/chopping. It will take some time to grate the cheese, cut the basil and parsley, and slice the garlic. Once you get that all out of the way, it’s straightforward and simple to get this recipe done.
1. Heat the oven to 350.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half, and then toss them in a bowl with 3 tbsp of olive oil.
3. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, salt and red pepper over the tomatoes and then toss again, until they are well coated.
4. Line the tomatoes out onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or foil.
5. Bake the tomatoes for 25 min, until they are lightly carmelized and starting to shrivel (but not dried out)
…and here’s one more shot, a close up – I like the texture in this photo!
Directions to Prepare the Pasta
Cooking pasta is pretty simple, obviously. just make sre that about 10 minutes before the tomatoes are due to come out, you fill a large saucepot with water, add salt, and when it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta. You’ll want to wait about 8 – 10 minutes, or until it is al dente.
Directions for the Sauce
While the pasta is cooking and the tomatoes are entering the last ten minutes:
1. Add 7 tbsp oil to a skillet
2. When oil is hot, add the garlic and saute until light brown and sizzling.
3. Add 2 cups of water from the pasta pot to the skillet and boil while stirring the garlic.
4. Wait until 1/2 the water boils off and then add the chopped parsley and lower to simmer.
Directions to Combine
1. Take finished pasta and add it to the skillet, turning it so that the oil/garlic/parsley is evenly spread.
2. Add the tomatoes to the pasta, scooping up the bread crumb/tomato juice and adding it as well.
3. Turn well, to assure that the pasta is well covered.
4. Add the basil, continue to turn
5. Add the Romano, turn again.
Serve at this point. Lidia says to sprinkle some ricotta onto the individual plates (not sure how you “sprinkle” ricotta, though!), but I decided to just go with Romano, which worked very well.