This time of year, I want to eat fresh local tomatoes every day until there are no more. For some reason, the finality of tomato season resonates more than other vegetables. Maybe fresh corn is equal in its limited and anticipated season, but real tomatoes picked ripe tastes like summer and the ground from which it has grown. There is nothing like it.
As much as I love fresh tomatoes, roasted tomatoes are high on my list for having exceptional flavor, particularly roasted cherry tomatoes. Roasting cherry tomatoes concentrate their natural sweetness giving them an amazing punch of pizzazz. As a result, paring roasted cherry tomatoes with other foods, just makes everything taste better, especially creamy cheese, fish or grilled meats.
One of my favorite ways to use roasted cherry tomatoes is to mix them with pasta and make a pasta sauce. Other than chopping up fresh tomatoes and adding them to pasta, roasting cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest methods for making a pasta sauce. Just scatter the tomatoes over a sheet pan, drizzle olive oil and salt, then roast for 30 minutes or so. The other bonus to roasting cherry or grape tomatoes is there is no splatter on the stove or countertop.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
I started roasting cherry tomatoes after I saw a photograph of burrata with roasted cherry tomatoes drizzled with basil pesto. Immediately, I knew this appetizer was something I had to discover. Since then I roast cherry tomatoes whenever I get the chance. I especially like to roast them alongside tender white fish like sole, plaice or turbot. They give the delicate fish a much-needed flavor boost.
Roasting cherry tomatoes for pasta sauce requires nothing more than a generous dose of good olive oil and fresh herbs. When they bake together in the oven the juices from the tomatoes and olive oil blend and create a silky sauce that clings to the pasta. There is not a lot of this pan juice, so it is important to use the right size pan to prevent the pan juices from drying out. If that does happen, deglaze the pan with some of the pasta water or wine, then pour the glaze over the pasta.
This summer I never missed an opportunity to roast garlic or onions. So, whenever I roasted vegetables like broccoli, I scattered cloves of garlic, still in their papery skins and roasted the cloves along with the other veggies. Like roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic is one of those foods that just make everything taste better. It does take some time to get the garlic browned and sweet, but I help the process along by slicing large garlic cloves in half. When all done, you can smear the roasted garlic cloves on bread, or spread it over the roasted vegetables for added depth of flavor.
For this recipe, the garlic will not get as caramelized because it only takes 20-30 minutes to roast cherry tomatoes. Yet, in this short timeframe, the garlic becomes soft and sweet. Once the tomatoes are finished I fish out the garlic cloves and remove the papery skins. From there you can decide if you want the garlic cloves left whole in the sauce or chopped up. I decided to chop mine up making sure there was roasted garlic throughout the pasta sauce. Feel free to prepare the garlic any way you wish. Yet, I do not recommend you mince the garlic before you roast it, as garlic burns easily. Burned garlic tastes very bitter.
How Much Pasta
I once read a note written by Marcella Hazan that when making a pasta dish, it is the pasta that is the primary ingredient, not the sauce or added ingredients. Therefore, the add-ins should be limited in proportion to not take away from the pasta. I love pasta as much as anyone, but I prefer my pasta meals filled with lots of add-ins. This way for every bite I get the fresh flavors of the added ingredients and pasta. Additionally, it is healthier to eat pasta with lots of vegetables because they help slow down the metabolism of the pasta from the extra fiber. This is a long-winded explanation for how much pasta to serve with 2 pounds ( 1 kg) of tomatoes. My preference is a half-pound of pasta, (250g), but use the amount you prefer.
Mix it Up
Add creamy goat cheese to the spaghetti and roasted cherry tomatoes. Scatter spoonfuls of goat cheese on each plate or on the serving platter after the spaghetti and roasted tomato sauce are mixed together.
Add fresh ricotta cheese to the spaghetti and roasted cherry tomatoes. Serve the pasta meal with a tablespoonful of fresh ricotta cheese on the side.
Add shrimp to the sauce. Five minutes before the tomatoes finish roasting, scatter peeled and seasoned shrimp on the roasting pan with the tomatoes. Roast until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through. Toss the shrimp and tomatoes with spaghetti or another choice of pasta.
Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Roasted cherry or grape tomatoes develop a lovely concentrated sweetness and a melty and silky texture perfect for pasta sauce. In this recipe the tomatoes roast along with fresh herbs, garlic, and shallots for an extra flavor boost.
I listed two amounts of pasta in the recipe. Use either a half-pound or a full pound of pasta with 2 lbs. of cherry tomatoes. If you are in the camp that pasta is the main and featured ingredient, then cook the full pound. Yet, if you are like me and enjoy more add-ins with a pasta meal, then a half-pound is preferable. This way you get more tomatoes with each bite. A half-pound of pasta with the roasted cherry tomato sauce is enough for 4 servings.
- 2 lbs (1 kg) cherry or grape tomatoes washed and dried
- 8 cloves of garlic peel intact
- 4-6 small shallots peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
- 3 TB (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil plus more for finishing
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- A few rounds of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs of fresh herbs like basil or thyme
- ½ - 1 lb. (250 - 500 g) pasta like spaghetti linguine, or see note
- Romano Cheese for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and place the oven rack in the middle position.
Keep the skins on each garlic clove, but trim off the root end. This will make peeling the roasted garlic easier when the cloves are hot. If any of the garlic cloves are large, slice them in half lengthwise with the skins still on.
Depending on how large your shallots are, slice them in half lengthwise or in fourths lengthwise if they are too big.
Add the tomatoes, garlic cloves and shallots to a rimmed baking sheet or shallow flameproof baking pan, large enough to hold the vegetables in one layer. You do not want the pan to be too big or the juices from the tomatoes will dry up in the oven.
Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes, garlic, and shallots, then sprinkle them with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Toss in half of the fresh herbs, then use your clean hands and mix until all the vegetables are nicely coated with olive oil.
Slide the pan into the oven and roast for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes check the tomatoes if they are soft and starting to split. Also, the garlic will look soft and starting to brown, along with the shallots. You can stop roasting now or roast an additional 5 -10 minutes more to really soften the tomatoes and garlic. Once done to your liking remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Cook the pasta al dente, just done with a little bite in the middle. Remove the pasta from the water and add to a bowl. Reserve some pasta water to deglaze the pan and add to the sauce. Ideally, you want to time it, so the pasta is done at the same time as the tomatoes.
Right after you take the tomatoes out of the oven, carefully (the garlic is very hot) remove the papery skin from the roasted garlic. You can add the garlic cloves back in with the tomatoes whole or chop them up.
Add the tomatoes, garlic, and shallots to the spaghetti scraping as much of the pan juices to the bowl. If your pan juices dried up, set the roasting pan over two burners then add some pasta water and deglaze the pan. Reduce the juices then add to the pasta and tomatoes.
Toss the spaghetti to get the tomatoes evenly mixed in. Add a little more pasta water if it seems dry. Sprinkle the remaining fresh basil over the pasta and drizzle with more olive oil. (This is a good place for adding your best quality olive oil.) Serve immediately with grated Romano cheese and fresh black pepper.
I believe just about any shape pasta will taste nice with the roasted cherry tomato sauce. Spaghetti and linguine are traditional choices, but tubular or unusual pasta shapes like campanelle are nice. I recommend shying away from flat pasta shapes like bow ties, farfalle, or ones that are small.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A silky and chunky mushroom sauce recipe perfect with fresh or dried, long wide shape pasta. With a pound and a half of mushrooms, it has a deep mushroom flavor seasoned with dry Spanish sherry and fresh rosemary.
My stress level is very high now and I desperately need to chill out. In-between two nor’easters, extended power outages, and no internet, I migrated my website from one hosting service to another. Maybe I should have waited until the storms cleared, but then I would still be waiting. No internet.
For over a week my website fluctuated between it’s old home and new one, appearing with different styling and connections. Just like we went from house to house seeking warmth and shelter after the storm. Fortunately, we had a place to go, not like my website that was floating between two homes.
Mushroom Sauce to Sooth the Soul
Amid cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer and restocking our supplies, I spied a pint of store made fresh cream of mushroom soup. I grabbed it up like it was the last pint of soup in the store. Instinctively, I knew other than my internet service returning, cream of mushroom soup was the medicine I needed to calm my mind.
Back home, with each sweet and earthy slurp my body melted into the serene soup. Selfishly, I wanted more and next to mushroom soup, pasta with mushroom sauce grounds me. Like cream of mushroom soup, mushroom sauces for pasta is at the top of my favorite food list. When two of the most comforting foods combine, it is difficult to hold onto any worries. It is time to make this at home.
How to store mushrooms Once I open a sealed package of fresh mushrooms, I put any remainder mushrooms in paper bag. Mushrooms get slimy in plastic bags and containers.
Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce
Wide flat noodles are my preferred pasta shape with this smooth mushroom sauce. Often pappardelle or tagliatelle are hard to find so penne is a good substitute. If you can get fresh pasta go for it, but make sure you time the pasta to reach just shy of al dente when the sauce is done cooking. Fresh pasta is best eaten right after it is cooked.
This recipe is adapted from Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, Tagliatelle with Mushroom Sauce.
- .5 oz (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms*
- 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
- 1 lb. (454 g) dried or fresh pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle, or penne
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 lbs 750 g assorted mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 leek cleaned and minced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 TB fresh rosemary minced (thyme or sage)
- 3 TB tomato paste
- 2 TB dry sherry or Cognac
- 1 - 1.5 cups (250 - 375 ml) reserved mushroom liquid, or a combination of vegetable or chicken stock and mushroom liquid
- 2 TB butter
- Handful of Italian parsley chopped for garnish
- Fresh finely grated Romano cheese
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms and poke at them to submerge the mushrooms under the water. Quickly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid my lifting them out with your hands or a slotted spoon and rest them on a cutting board. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a double layer of cheese cloth, into a small bowl. Finely chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set aside. Reserve the mushroom liquid for later.
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Once the pasta water reaches a vigorous boiling point and add about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
Prepare the mushroom sauce
While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet, about 12 inches (30cm) or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil add all the fresh mushrooms to the pan. (If you use a smaller pan, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in a couple of batches.) Sauté stirring occasionally until they are cooked through and all their liquid has evaporated.
Add the minced leeks, garlic, minced reconstituted porcini mushrooms, half the minced rosemary, Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper then stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until the leeks are soft about 5 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to uncover the hot spot of your pan and add the tomato paste to toast it over the hot spot for about a minute. Mix the tomato paste with the vegetables and cook for 4 minutes. Add the liquid, either just the mushroom stock or a combination of mushroom and chicken stock no more than 1. 5 cups (375 ml), and the butter. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the mushroom sauce until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Refer to the directions on the back of the pasta box. Occasionally stir the pasta so the strands do not stick together. Once cooked, remove the pasta from the water using tongs and add it directly into the pan with the mushroom sauce. Toss to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining minced rosemary and serve.
Serve immediately garnished with minced parsley with finely grated fresh Romano cheese.
Dried porcini powder is another way to get earthy mushroom flavor when cooking with cultivated mushrooms. Start with 1 teaspoon. Taste, then adjust with more if needed.
More mushroom recipes for the mushroom lover:
Mix up the Mushroom Sauce
Instead of a pasta sauce, spread the mushroom sauce over polenta, grilled steaks, chicken or white fish.
Top bruschetta with the mushroom sauce. Toast slices of crusty French or Italian bread then paint each slice using a garlic clove. Top the garlic toasts with the mushroom sauce and serve as an appetizer.
Add some cream or crème fraîche to the mushroom sauce for a creamy adaptation. Start with a half of cup (125 ml) and taste. If you use cream add it with the stock, but do not let the sauce boil. If you use crème fraîche, add it at the end before you add the pasta.
Switch up the herbs to reflect the season. Mushrooms taste delicious with thyme, rosemary and sage, but in the summer months, try it with basil.
Experiment with the texture. For a slightly smoother sauce, purée half of the sauce until smooth, then add the purée back with the other mushrooms. Adjust the thickness with more stock.
For a heartier mushroom sauce, add roughly chopped tomatoes to the sauce before you add the stock. Proceed as directed.
If it wasn’t for free Wi-Fi at various stores in my area I would not have been able to get my website up and running and publish this post. Thanks to Panera and Starbucks for providing the service. It was a real-life saver for many people like myself during the aftermath of two nor’easters within a weeks’ time. This is not an ad or a sponsored post, just a friendly thank you.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
When schedules are tight, and you want a hearty dinner with little preparation, a pasta dinner with turkey meat sauce is the answer. I can’t tell you how many times I relied on this meal over the years. When my kids lived at home, pasta with turkey meat sauce was a regular, if not weekly dinner. Fortunately, they never tired of this very dependable and affordable meal.
Pasta served with a simple meat sauce made with ground turkey and canned tomatoes are the basis for this recipe. We use ground turkey a lot for burgers, meatloaf, or a meat sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love a juicy beef cheeseburger and believe Bolognese sauce is food for the Gods, yet the boys preferred ground turkey. Luckily, when it comes to making a meat sauce, their preference for ground turkey was easy to satisfy. Unlike ground beef, ground turkey is the perfect choice when you want a quick meat sauce. Turkey does not require several hours of cooking to break down and develop rich flavor like beef does. In fact, because turkey is so lean, the longer it cooks the tougher it gets.
Originally, my intention for making this sauce was to create a meal that was easy to make, and my kids would eat. With little toddlers running around I often did not have time to chop a lot of vegetables. A substantial meal with little prep was the ideal dinner. Aside from the amount of time the turkey meat sauce needs to cook, the most difficult part is preparing the garlic. As for the rest of the meal, ground turkey quickly browns then cooks in a sauce of chopped up canned tomatoes, grated carrots, and the minced garlic. The time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta provides a window of 30 – 40 minutes. This gives the meat sauce plenty of time to cook. The result is a meat sauce with bright flavor, and my attention could easily move between making dinner and my children’s needs.
As the boys grew up and if time allowed, I added other vegetables or seasoning. It is a great sauce to use up any loose vegetables hiding in the refrigerator. Anything goes be it, red pepper flakes, pancetta, fresh herbs, winter squash, mushrooms, or other vegetables. You name it, this hearty sauce develops into whatever your inspiration desires. However, keep in mind, adding more ingredients changes your quick dinner into one requiring extra preparation and cooking time.
For a vegetarian/vegan pasta sauce: Tomato Sauce with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar
What I really like about this meal, is it so adaptable. I find it difficult to call this a recipe, instead, it is a foundation for endless possibilities. It is a simple family dinner that can easily be made with whatever ingredients are in your pantry or refrigerator. There is no need to measure, use what you have and adjust to your tastes. If you only have one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, it will still taste great. If you don’t have fresh herbs there is no need to run to the store, used dried herbs. What is important is putting a nutritious homemade dinner on the table and enjoying time spent with your family and friends.
Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce
- 1 lb (453 g) ground turkey
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic green germ removed and minced
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1 medium or 2 small carrots about 2.5 oz / 75 g grated on a box grater
- 1- 1½ tsp Kosher salt divided
- 1 28 oz (800 g) can of whole tomatoes in purée rough chopped
- 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1½ tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 lb box spaghetti or other favorite pasta
- 1 TB balsamic vinegar
- small handful of fresh basil leaves
- small handful of fresh parsley
Fill a stock pot 2/3 up with water and place on a burner over high heat.
Place another large saucepan or 5qt Dutch oven over a burner set to medium-high heat. Pour in 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the ground turkey to the pot and break it up. Let the ground turkey cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes. Once the turkey meat starts to brown break up any large chunks and stir. Cook the ground turkey until the meat is no longer pink and the juices collected on the bottom of the pot have evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the grated carrots, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, if using, and ½ tsp Kosher salt. Stir and cook for about for a couple of minutes.
Add both cans of tomatoes with their juices, dried oregano, and dried basil to the ground turkey and stir. Bring the sauce to a brisk boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and stir. Taste and correct for seasoning with more Kosher salt if needed. If you are using no-salt canned tomatoes, you may need the full 1½ tsp of kosher salt to the sauce. Don't add more sugar until it has simmered for several minutes. You should not need extra sugar, but sometimes a pinch is required. The sugar helps sweeten the sauce and balance the flavor.
Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
When the sauce is done simmering, and just before serving, turn off the heat and add the chopped fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar to the sauce. Stir to mix.
Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil add about 1 TB of Kosher salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta following the instructions on the back of the pasta box. Ideally, time the pasta to finish cooking just after the sauce is finished cooking.
Drain the pasta from the water and add a little olive oil and stir. Plate the pasta with sauce and serve with grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Pasta is the perfect foundation to pair with basil pesto. The intense herb flavor combined with sharp cheese needs a mild flavored foundation to compliment the sauce. Any type of pasta will suffice, but my favorite pasta with my favorite basil pesto recipe is cheese tortellini. Tortellini is widely available at the store, either freshly made, frozen or dried. As it happens, tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is one of my family’s favorite pasta dinners.
I love making pasta dinners with enough additional ingredients for a well-rounded meal. Marcella Hazan says a pasta meal is all about the pasta with just the minimal amount of sauce and add-ins. The pasta is the star. I learned a lot about cooking Italian food from Marcella’s cookbooks. However, here is where I diverge from her rule. For me, I try to make a whole meal that is nutritionally balanced.
Usually, I create a pasta dinner using pasta as the foundation with enough vegetables and/or proteins for a well-rounded meal. This way if I can’t make a salad, I know everyone will get at least one serving of vegetables. You still enjoy the comfort and flavor of pasta with the added nutritional benefits of a full serving of vegetables. Hopefully, the additional vegetables reduces pasta’s glycemic-index as well. Tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is also a great way to sneak in more vegetables for picky eaters.
Whenever I mix pesto into tortellini, or any type of pasta, I always add grape tomatoes. I never serve pasta with pesto without them. The sweetness and acid of the tomatoes nicely compliments the pesto and makes it taste more refreshing. I also love adding blanched green beans to my tortellini and pesto. It doesn’t add extra work and cooks in the same pot as the tortellini. Quickly blanched and crisp green beans add a nice textural contrast to the soft tortellini and smooth pesto. Basil, tomatoes and green beans all grow at the same time and as the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together.”
Tortellini with Basil Pesto, GrapeTomaotes and Green Beans
- 1 lb (450 g) fresh, dried or frozen cheese tortellini
- Kosher Salt for pasta cooking water and seasoning
- 1/2 lb (227 g) grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 lb (227 g) fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Basil Pesto
- Serve with freshly grated Romano cheese
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream or half and half Optional. Follow directions in summary.
Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add at least one teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water and carefully taste. You want to taste the salt in the water. The lore is, the pasta water should taste like the sea. Sometimes I find that amount too salty. continue to add more salt until it is just right for your preference.
Add the tortellini and cook according to the directions given with the pasta. While the tortellini cooks, occasionally stir the pot to prevent the tortellini from sticking together.
About two minutes before the tortellini is done cooking, add the prepared green beans to the pot with the tortellini. Cook until the water returns to a boil. Taste the tortellini for al dente.
Drain the water and return the tortellini and green beans to the stock pot. Add about a 1/2 cup of pesto and stir o combine. Add the grape tomatoes and stir to combine.
Serve immediately with more Romano Cheese on the side.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.