Monday, August 21, 2017

Late Summer Pasta

Mid-August is heat lightning and crickets, blazing sunsets, county fairs and tent revivals, iced tea in tall frosty glasses. The long, humid days cry out for a simple meal. No side dishes or dessert, just a huge bowl of angel hair pasta. Scented with basil and tossed lightly in Bandy's tomato sauce, this dish is packed with flavor: roasted heirloom tomatoes, pancetta, a dusting of Parmesan and garlic-shallot breadcrumbs. Can I have an Amen?

This dish required a little more effort than I, a slob, am accustomed to making, but it was worth it.

Late Summer Pasta
                                                       Serves 8

4 dry pints mixed cherry and plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and divided into cloves
8 oz chopped pancetta
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
fresh basil
1 package angel hair pasta
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Wash tomatoes and place in baking pan. Toss tomatoes and 3 (or more) whole garlic cloves with 1-1/2 tablespoons EVOO. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place in oven and cook 40 minutes, stirring tomatoes (and turning them over, if necessary) every 15 minutes or so. 
While the tomatoes roast, fill a large stockpot with water. Add salt. Turn up the flame to medium high.

For extra flavor, infuse the water with basil leaves and 1 peeled, whole garlic clove. 

When the water boils, add pasta and cook according to directions on the box. Remove pasta, reserving 1/4 to 1 cup of pasta liquid (I used 1/4 c). To the hot liquid, add 1 pat of butter. Set aside.

In a deep frying pan, sautee pancetta in 1 tablespoon oil. When the pancetta is crisp, remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

For a flavorful, crunchy topping, make pan-toasted breadcrumbs (I used Panko):
In the pancetta drippings, sautee the shallots. Add 1 chopped garlic clove and cook 1 minute longer, taking care not to burn the vegetables. Add breadcrumbs and stir. Allow the crumbs to brown just a little, stirring constantly. Don't let them burn!
 Remove from the flame.

Make a basic tomato sauce. 
I use Bandwidth's recipe, adapted from Extra Virgin (cooking show).

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon white granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can organic tomato sauce (15 oz) -- the brand I use is unsalted
1/4 cup "pasta water"
1 pat unsalted butter

Sautee shallots in oil for 3 minutes or until translucent/clear. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add tomato sauce. Stir. Add 1 T. white granulated sugar. Reduce heat to a low flame. If you're using unsalted, organic sauce, add more salt to taste--I use an extra 2 T.
Add four basil leaves, sliced.
(Note: To prevent basil from bruising and darkening, stack the leaves and roll into a log. Cut into slivers. This is called a chiffonade. My eldest son, Trey, the chef told me about this method--it works!) 

Trey suggested that I add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the sauce. He's been to an Italian cooking school three times, and he says pasta water is magic--but you have to add butter).
Stir the sauce until the pasta water is incorporated.

Add a ladle of tomato sauce to the pasta.  Stir. Add more sauce until the pasta is gently coated (not saturated). Think: a whisper of sauce.

Toss angel hair pasta with tomatoes (and drippings) and half of the pancetta. Stir gently. Garnish with toasted breadcrumbs, more pancetta, and slivered basil. Grate Parmesan cheese (or your favorite cheese) over the pasta and tomatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt and a grind of pepper.
Serve with herbed bread or a French loaf, along with your favorite wine or beverage.

Every bite holds the essence of late summer. 
Come January, when grocery store tomatoes look sad and anemic, you'll remember the luscious, plump, vibrant tomatoes of August, and you'll be glad you made this pasta.

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  1. This looks wonderful. Thanks so much for the recipe. I love any type of pasta.


    1. I just bought a variety of pasta for cold salads. The humidity is so high, we're wilting.

  2. This looks so good, my mouth is actually watering here. There is just nothing better than truly fresh pasta sauce like this one, and served over angel hair pasta, which is a personal fave. Thanks for the recipe and inspiration.

    1. Tyler saw the sauce on an episode of Extra Virgin. I haven't seen that show in a while--it was fun!