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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Monday, September 2, 2013

Cherry Tomato Pasta

For the past several years I've tried to grow San Marzano paste tomatoes in my garden.  Both Matt and I hate to eat raw tomatoes, but love cooked tomato sauce.  But the San Marzano tomatoes never thrived in our Canadian garden.  We had blossom end rot and very low yield.  We were lucky to end up with 3 or 4 tomatoes in a season, and we'd end up buying a bushel of tomatoes from the farmers market to can tomato sauce

So this year, we decided to grow a very high-yield cherry tomato plant called Sweet Million.  It has been fantastic!  We've had dozens of tomatoes each week since the end of July, with no end in sight.

Since we don't like to eat them raw, every week I've made some variation on a cherry tomato pasta sauce.  I almost always use zucchini and a bit of spicy Italian pork or turkey sausage in the sauce.  Sometimes I roast the tomatoes, sometimes I soften them in a pan.  Sometimes I toss in a few local yellow grape tomatoes from the marked for colour. But the sauce is always fresh and delicious.  

This version is cooked on top of the stove and adds breadcrumbs toasted with garlic and herbs for a texture contrast.  Here's what you need:

2 slices crusty bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
16 basil leaves
1/4 cup sliced green onions or chives
salt & pepper
1 small zucchini or yellow squash
1 cooked, crumbled hot Italian sausage
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pints (4 cups) cherry tomatoes
1 pound pasta (linguine, spaghetti or penne works great)
grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.   I love this particular whole wheat pasta but it isn't easy to find.  

Pulse the bread in a food processor into fine crumbs.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and toss the breadcrumbs in the oil until browned.  

Thinly slice the basil leaves and toss the breadcrumbs with about 1/4 of the basil, the green onions and some salt and pepper.   Set aside.

Dice the zucchini.  In a large skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil over high heat and quickly brown the zucchini.  Remove from pan and set aside.  

Quarter the cherry tomatoes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan add the sliced garlic and chili flakes.  Cook for about one minute.

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with half the remaining basil.

Reserve a little pasta water before draining the pasta.  Toss the zucchini and sausage with the tomato sauce, then add the hot pasta.  Drizzle with a little pasta water if it is too dry.  

Serve the pasta in large bowls, topped with the breadcrumb mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining herbs and some parmesan cheese.

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