The following recipe and photography were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
Fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and pasta could be dinner at my house every night. Since you use them fresh, this dish should be reserved for that time of year when tomatoes are ripe and at their peak of flavor.
It’s that easy: Tomato skins are incredibly tough and the easiest way to slice them down is to use a serrated knife. The same thing goes for crusty artisan loaves of bread. Use a serrated knife to saw through the crispy crust and tender insides.
- Cook time:
- Prep time:
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- 4 slices Italian-style bread, cut into 1-in cubes, about 3 cups
- 2 10 oz. containers grape tomatoes, halved
- 6 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 3 tsp. salt, divided
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 12 oz. trumpet, shell or bow tie pasta
- Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat.
- While the water heats, dice the bread into cubes, halve the tomatoes, mince the garlic and thinly slice the basil leaves on a large cutting board into separate piles.
- Add the tomato, half of the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes and a few grinds of black pepper to a large bowl and toss it all together.
- Heat a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it melts, add the remaining garlic, bread cubes and 1/4 tsp. (1.25 ml.) of salt and brown them in the hot fat, turning often as they crisp, about 5 minutes total. They will soak up all the butter in the pan like sponges. Transfer the croutons to a plate and cool the pan slightly before carefully wiping it out with a paper towels (There will be over-browned garlic remaining in the pan, which should be removed).
- Add the remaining salt and pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the package directions or until it is al dente and almost cooked through to the center.
While the pasta cooks, return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the bowl of tomatoes. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- While the tomatoes cook, check the pasta for doneness. About 2 minutes short of the cooking time on the package instructions, scoop out a piece of pasta and bite into it. It should still be chewy, but not tough. If still tough, cook for another minute and check again. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and reserve it, then drain the pasta in a strainer in the sink.
- Immediately dump the pasta and a 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the skillet of tomatoes and toss it to coat it with the seasonings. Toss in the basil and stir to incorporate them into the mix. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, pepper flakes, balsamic, olive oil or basil to your taste. If it seems dry, add a little more pasta water.
- Mound the pasta onto heated plates, top with croutons, drizzle with more olive oil and eat with reckless abandon. The pasta cools fast and the croutons get soggy, so eat quickly.
Extra Hungry? A small salad of arugula with grated or shaved Parmesan will go nicely with all the basil in the pasta. You can toss in a few olives if you have them.
In the glass: If you haven’t tried one lately, this dish is a great excuse to try a dry, crisp Rosé. Look for Francis Ford Coppola Winery Sofia Rosé. It has a crisp acidity but with enough fruit to complement the tomatoes and enough spice to stand up to the garlic.