Could you be buying too many if the lady at the produce stand says, "Somebody really likes tomatoes!" when you check out? For the second Saturday in a row we had two sacks of 5-6 each when we reached the cash register plus a basket of the little grape tomatoes. Too many tomatoes? There's no such thing.
Nothing can quite measure up to fresh-from-Grandpa Arnall's-garden tomatoes where the rich, black dirt gave them just the right mixture of sweetness and acid but these have been pretty good. It's the time of the year when the produce stands are getting them from Sand Mountain, an area in northern Alabama known for its tomato-growing. Wayne slices one every day for lunch and the rest of them have been finding their way on to salads, burgers and as an extra vegetable just the way they are.
The grape tomatoes, however, have become the star of what might be our new favorite summertime meal. It does require the oven, something I often avoid in the hot weather, but the flavors are worth it...light, fresh and oh so tasty. I scribbled it down when I saw it on the Internet and, of course, now I don't know who to credit for it but it's so easy that it's more of a process than a recipe.
Slice the grape tomatoes in half and put them on a foil-lined baking pan. Usually I use one of those little baskets full but I had extras tonight. Remember the rule: You can't have too many tomatoes. Coarsely chop some garlic and add it to the pan. The amount is up to you; for us, garlic is a little like the tomatoes...you can't have too much but suit your own taste buds. Pour some olive oil over the tomatoes and garlic. I never measure but since this is going to become your sauce for the pasta, be generous with it too. Season all this with some kosher salt and lots of cracked black pepper, give it a toss and put it in a preheated 400 degree oven.
Roast the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring it half-way through. The house is going to smell really good...well, if you like garlic, that is. And while it's roasting, start a pan of water and cook your pasta, timing it to be done when the tomatoes are. We like this with bowtie pasta because the "sauce" works well with a fork but really, you could use any kind. And while you're waiting everything to finish cooking, chop a generous amount of fresh basil into little green ribbons. It's more of that however-much-you-like-thing but since my basil is trying to flower, I cut a double-handful off the plants. Love the smell of fresh basil!
The tomatoes hold their shape but they get all soft and sweet and take on a little of the garlic flavor. And the oil gets infused with the tomato juices and garlic too. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is even though I downed a healthy serving of it for dinner this evening.
Then you just combine it all: Drained pasta, tomato-garlic-oil mixture and fresh basil and give it a good stir. If you need more oil, throw a little in the pasta pan first to warm it up so you don't cool the pasta down too much. I suppose you could mash the tomatoes up or puree it all in the blender if you wanted something closer to a traditional red sauce but we like it rustic. Top it with some shaved parmesan cheese and dig in. Yummo!
It's the kind of dish you can easily adapt and add to, like the leftover grilled chicken breast I threw in tonight. And one night when I served this as a side dish to a meal that included asparagus, we both agreed that would be a good addition. While those extras are well and good, I think I like it when there's nothing to compete with the summery flavor of the roasted tomatoes because right now...it's all about the tomatoes.