TasteFood: Buy out-of-season tomatoes without regret
If you’re like me and can’t resist buying hothouse grape tomatoes in the middle of the winter — even when we know better — this recipe will address any buyer’s remorse. It’s not the fault of the tomatoes, of course. They do look irresistible, but looks can be deceiving with these plump and oh-so-red tomatoes, which often disappoint in the flavor department when they are out of season.
Not to worry — this recipe allows for a little off-season tomato indulgence with no regrets. Thanks to slow roasting, they will deflate from their impossible pertness to a more relaxed version of themselves, and any hibernating juices and natural sugars will be released. Along with a little simple seasoning to give them some oomph, you will also have a sunny and versatile condiment to beat the winter blues.
Add roasted tomatoes to sauces and salads, use as a topping on pizza and crostini, or toss with pasta. In this recipe, I take advantage of the sludgy sheen of olive oil and tomato juice left behind in the pan after roasting. To sop up the flavorful oil, I sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the pan to absorb the juices and toast the crumbs in the oven until golden. They are a delicious extra touch to this light and fresh pasta dish.
Gemelli with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs
Active time: 45 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound grape tomatoes
3 garlic whole cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
4 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound gemelli or fusilli
2 large handfuls arugula, about 3 cups
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil, salt and black pepper and stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and discard the thyme sprigs. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a large serving bowl.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet and stir in the residual olive oil to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (They will brown quickly, so watch them carefully.) Remove and immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to stop them from cooking. Cool for 5 minutes and then stir in the 2 tablespoons cheese.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Add the pasta, arugula, half the breadcrumbs, and the 1/3 cup cheese to the tomatoes and toss to combine. If the pasta is a little dry, add some of the reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until moistened to your preference. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper; serve immediately.