Food, Italian-Style: Pasta + Tomatoes = The Basics

1 Sep

Come out, come out, wherever you are! I am postponing a rant because I just realized something wonderful: ignoring all the obvious complications of living in Italy, one of the greatest and most rewarding things that has truly changed me is the food.

Not long ago I defended American food. Now, I do believe that there are some fabulous and delicious culinary delights in the U.S., especially certain regional examples, summertime barbeque and desserts. But the last time I visited, I really felt like an Italian for the first time in seven years living abroad.  I could not eat a damn thing. My palate has completely gotten used to the fresh flavors here, and that is something to be proud of! Italian food, and well, I guess I’m talking about Tuscan food since that’s what I eat here, is super-fresh and super-simple and just plain yummy.

It’s taken me a long time to learn how to cook here and I’m still learning. Italians are very critical about food and not afraid to openly critique what they are eating. I only invited the in-laws to dinner recently since we got a new gas grill and I didn’t have to make pasta (oh the horrors of *serving* overcooked pasta – just the thought makes me break out in hives).

But I’m getting there…and the foodie revolution is getting me by. All the great food blogs are helping me out since all the recipes are photographed and reviewed, as Deb from the wonderful smitten kitchen explains in her post on this recipe that looks so good and easy that I will be making it tonight for dinner. And so should you.

photos via smitten kitchen

Because the basics of Italian cooking are pasta and tomatoes. And since we have plenty of time to meditate on more elaborate dishes, why not enjoy the simplicity of this one?

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

The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup olive oil, but Deb 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
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  2. Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Alla prossima!

Bianca

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One Response to “Food, Italian-Style: Pasta + Tomatoes = The Basics”

  1. elenasc September 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

    We looooove our pasta!:P
    Your blog has to be in my list!

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