Wednesday, February 21, 2007

baked tomato sauce

baked tomato sauce

Last week, the stunningly redesigned Delicious Days — seriously, looking at that site brings rolling fields awash in sunlight to mind — paid homage to food blogs and the way they quickly became her favorite place to get recipes; they’re tested, photographed and honestly discussed. I couldn’t agree more, except unlike Delicious Days, I sometimes bookmark recipes others have referenced but then completely forget who first whispered the url in my ear. This is a both wonderful and terrible thing, wonderful because Monday night, I made one of the best tomato sauces I’ve ever eaten, but terrible because I can’t remember who to thank.

tomatoes, ready to roast

Nonetheless, if you’re into that whole, oh, you know, blistered tomato, garlic/olive oil/sharp cheese type of thing, you simply must try this. The best part, if you ask me, is that you can even make it with those cherry or large grape tomatoes that stay eerily fantastic — I try not to question it — through the winter. Halve them and roast them cut side up in an olive oil slicked baking dish and top them with a mix of bread crumbs, garlic, parmesan and romano cheeses for all of twenty minutes, and ta-da, deliciousness is yours.

cacades

I’m going to have to insist that you use fresh bread crumbs here — that sawdust from a can probably won’t cut it. But fortunately, that’s as easy as grabbing a single cheapo bakery roll from your grocery store, slicing it into discs, drying it in the oven for 10 minutes or so (hey, you’re preheating the oven anyhow) and pulsing it in the food processor. Even the flavor of the most generic roll is miles ahead of the stale, pre-packaged alternative.

locks

And that’s all there is. I mean, sure, you can crank out a batch of fettuccine while your tomatoes are roasting, matching fresh ingredients to even fresher ones, but you could also boil a pot of fusilli, like the recipe suggests. Either way, this is the best quick pastas I’ve had in eons, something I am sure will quickly become a staple, so thank you, whomever you are. Meals like this alone make my countless weekly hours of blog-gazing worthwhile.

delicious, delicious

Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce
Adapted from The Best American Recipes 2000 via Epicurious.com

Oddly, the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup olive oil, but never tells you what to do with more than a couple tablespoons of that. I found three to four tablespoons to be just right.

Serves 4

3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound dried fusilli (corkscrew) or farfalline (butterfly) pasta
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil.

Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

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, and then the final tablespoon of olive oil. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

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.

The Pasta Recipe I’ve Been Coming Back To, Again and Again
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water

To make pasta dough in a food processor: Blend flour, eggs, salt, and water in processor until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Process dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. Transfer to a floured surface and let stand, covered with an inverted bowl, 1 hour to let the gluten relax and make rolling easier. (Note: I skimped on the one hour waiting this time, and it still worked out just fine.)

To make dough by hand: Mound flour on a work surface, preferably wooden, and make a well in center. Add eggs, salt, and water to well. With a fork, gently beat eggs and water until combined. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a paste, pulling in flour closest to egg mixture and being careful not to make an opening in outer wall of well. Knead remaining flour into mixture with your hands to form a dough, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let stand 1 hour (to make rolling easier).


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