Roasted tomato pasta sauce

June 6, 2009 at 7:55 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Summer recipes)


Sitting on my counter yesterday were a number of cherry tomatoes that had started to go a bit soft.  They were still good, but not fresh enough to eat out of hand.  I thought I would turn them into a nice (and fast) pasta sauce, by roasting them in the oven on a cookie sheet.  I roughly followed the instructions in a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I halved the recipe and made a few changes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, sliced thin [try 3]
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil [try 3 Tbs.]
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes (about 3 pints), each tomato halved pole to pole [try 2.5 pounds]
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt + 1 Tbs. salt for pasta water
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes [try heaping 1/2 tsp.]
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin [try 6]
  • 1 pound whole wheat rigatoni [try 10 oz]
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the shallots thinly.
  3. In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the olive oil (except for 1 tsp., which you should set aside), salt, pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and garlic. Spread in even layer on rimmed baking sheet (about 17 by 12 inches).  In the same bowl, toss shallots with the remaining teaspoon oil; scatter shallots over tomatoes.
  4. Roast until edges of shallots begin to brown and tomato skins are slightly shriveled (tomatoes should retain their shape), 35 to 40 minutes. (Do not stir tomatoes during roasting.) Remove tomatoes from oven and cool 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. While tomatoes cook, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot. Just before removing tomatoes from oven, stir 1 Tbs. salt and pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and add to the large bowl you used for the tomatoes. Using a metal spatula, scrape the tomato mixture into the bowl on top of the pasta. Add the basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkling cheese over individual bowls.

My notes:

I didn’t have enough tomatoes so I halved the recipe.  Still, I didn’t have enough cherry tomatoes so I also used some small, dark-brown tomatoes I had bought for sandwiches.  I mis-read the shallot instructions, and just mixed the slices in with all the other ingredients, rather than lying them on top of the tomatoes.  The (halved) recipe calls for 1/2 pound of pasta but I thought that seemed like too much for the amount of sauce, so I made 1/3 pound.

My tomatoes cooked significantly faster than they were supposed to.  I think it was due to a combination of factors:  I halved the recipe, so the cookie sheet wasn’t as full;  I left the fan on in my oven; and my cookie sheet is a very dark black.  According to CI, the halved recipe was supposed to serve 2 to 3, but I thought that the amount of sauce was a little skimpy even for two people. For two people I think next time I would use 1.5 pounds tomatoes, and up all the other ingredients by 50%, except the olive oil.

The sauce was quite good–the tomatoes were still quite pulpy and clung to the pasta, but despite not really being saucy they did taste like a sauce.  I was afraid that the tomato skins would be tough or annoying, but I didn’t even notice them.  The sauce had a very roasted flavor, from the browned bits of shallot and tomato skin.  I would make this recipe again, but next time I would serve something else substantial and low-calorie alongside it.  I think I could eat infinite bowls of pasta and this tomato sauce without feeling full.  Maybe a white bean soup or a chickpea salad would be a nice accompaniment, or a big bowl of steamed vegetables tossed with lemon juice and fresh herbs?

Attempt #2:  On a second try I made the full recipe, but it still didn’t really fill my cookie sheet, so next time I’ll try 2.5 pounds of tomatoes.  I didn’t have shallots, so used a small red onion instead, which was also good.  I served the pasta sauce with polenta and a dish of zucchini and eggplant and egg in a little Thai red curry.  It was a nice dinner.

Update Aug 3, 2012:  I used 2.25 pounds of large cherry tomatoes (actually called “pearl” tomatoes), and cut the oil slightly to 3.33 Tbs.  I increased the chili flakes to a slightly heaping 1/2 tsp., and used only 10 oz. of pasta, but otherwise followed the recipe as stated.  It came out well.  The tomatoes clung to the pasta and made a nice (but slightly oily) sauce.  The sugar and vinegar gave the sauce a nice sweet and sour element.  Derek loved it.  He said it tasted like a pasta he’d get for lunch at Apero, the little Italian-run shop near our house.  I thought that there could be slightly more tomatoes for 10 ounces of pasta (probably 2.5 pounds), but Derek thought the ratio was perfect, if anything a tad too saucy.  He said if I increase the tomatoes to 2.5 pounds I should increase the pasta to 12 ounces.  I liked the shallots a lot.  Next time I’ll use three.  And I’ll use only 3 Tbs. of olive oil.    Note to self:  Make sure not to cook the tomatoes too much.  The halves should get slightly shriveled but maintain their rounded shape, not collapse and shrivel up completely.  I think it helped that I used a light grey cookie sheet this time, not my black one.

Cook’s Illustrated has an interesting sounding variant with goat cheese instead of parmesan (4 oz, about 1/2 cup crumbled) and 1 large bunch arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups loosely packed).  The arugula is tossed with the hot pasta to wilt it, and the cheese is sprinkled over individual bowls.

With 10 pounds of pasta, 2.25 pounds of tomatoes, and 3.33 Tbs. of oil this recipe made four servings of about 425 calories each.  With one ounce of parmeggiano per serving it would total 535 calories (17% protein, 33% fat, and 50% carbs).

Rating: B (very tasty, but a tad ordinary)

Derek: A-

Update Aug 2019: I made this for dinner with very ripe, soft tomatoes from my CSA (not cherry tomatoes). I only roughly followed the recipe, but Derek liked it a lot. He said he loved the sweetness along with the salty brininess of kalamata olives (which I served with it).

2 Comments

  1. susan said,

    I made the recipe and it came out very well.
    However it was too much for one meal so I refrigerated it and the next day the tomato skins were inedible.
    Dad gives this recipe an A.

  2. captious said,

    It was too much sauce for two people? I thought it wasn’t enough sauce for 2 people!

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