Slow Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta
By the close of every summer, our family has a short list of”best hits”. The list is made up of dishes we’ve made over and over, knowing the ingredients and mood will soon shift and summery recipes will be off the table. This Slow Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta is at the top of this year’s “best hits”.
Slow roasted tomatoes found their way into my repertoire when I discovered how good they are on crusty bread with a swipe of ricotta or burrata. They’re so delicious, I found myself roasting double batches so I’d have extras to add to vegetable sides, sandwiches, and ultimately, this simple pasta. It’s remarkable how a few hours in the oven can transform plucky garden tomatoes. They become tender, sweet, and caramelized enough to qualify as candy
How to Slow Roast Tomatoes
The key to this dish is to start with ripe, in-season cherry tomatoes. This is ideally a dish to make during the summer when you can get tomatoes from a garden or local farm rather than a hot house. From there, it’s a matter of piling them onto a sheet pan, adding a splash of olive oil, and getting them into the oven. I like to roast them low and slow at about 300 degrees. At that temperature, it takes a a good two hours to get the tomatoes pleasingly wrinkled and tangy sweet.
Garlic Basil Oil
In addition to roasting the tomatoes for a good long while, I like to steep garlic and basil in olive oil. By the time the tomatoes are done, the oil gets infused with epic flavor that brightens when hit with hot, cooked pasta. Even though the tomatoes and oil take their sweet time to develop flavor, hands on time for this recipe clocks in at under 15 minutes. Easy!
Make it Ahead
If it’s convenient, you can do the work of this recipe ahead of time. Roast your tomatoes and steep the garlic and basil early in the day. Leave both at room temperature until dinnertime. Then it’s just a matter of cooking your pasta and stirring it all together. You can make a double batch and stow half in the fridge to enjoy as an appetizer, add to sandwiches, or spoon over grilled vegetables.
Make it Your Own
This simple roasted cherry tomato pasta packs plenty of flavor all on its own, but is the type of dish that lends itself to variation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Add a handful or two of baby arugula to the tomatoes just before adding the hot pasta.
- Brown two slices diced pancetta or bacon in a pan and scatter over the finished dish.
- Stir a teaspoon or two of Calabrian chiles or several shakes of red chile flakes into olive oil/garlic.
- Add the cooked kernels of one to two ears of fresh corn when you stir in the pasta.
- Dot each bowl with a generous spoonful of good quality ricotta cheese or lump of soft burrata.
For other simple pasta recipes you might like:
Slow Roasted Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta
Slow roasting is an excellent technique for making magic with summer’s best cherry tomatoes. Though the dish is supremely simple, you need to build in a good two hours to allow the tomatoes to get tender and nearly caramelized. Feel free to roast the tomatoes and make the garlic/basil oil well ahead of time. Toss them together and leave at room temperature until dinnertime.
- 4 generous cups cherry tomatoes, stems removed (about 2 baskets)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 roughly chopped cup fresh basil
- 12 ounces dried pasta, such as rigatoni, penne, or fusilli
- 1 small chunk Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the cherry tomatoes on the baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the tomatoes get very tender and begin to shrivel, 2 hours. Remove from heat.
Just after putting the tomatoes in the oven, pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil into a large bowl. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife, peel, and add to the oil along with the basil. Stir well and set aside while the tomatoes roast.
When the tomatoes are done, transfer them to the bowl with the oil and stir gently.
When you’re ready to eat, cook the pasta in a large pot of generously salted water until al dente. Drain well. Add hot pasta to the bowl with the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in shallow bowls with freshly grated Parmesan on top.