Sunday, September 21, 2008

Baked Pasta for Fresh Tomato Season

After scoring some fantastic tomatoes at the Lafayette Farmers' Market last weekend, I knew it was time to try the recipe from one of my favorite blog posts of the summer. Molly over at Orangette used her tantalizingly minimalist photos to secure this recipe a spot on my to-cook list back in June--before I'd even officially typed up the list. So I was quite happy when the perfect storm descended last weekend.

Thankfully, the food processor makes short work of saucing those tomatoes.

And no, I'm not talking about the 10 inches of rapid rainfall in my home county that caused floods meriting canoeing down my street. I'm talking about the purchase of the aforementioned tomatoes, the aforeblogged cool-ish weather, and the happy coincidence of tomato sauce recipes appearing on the Bitten blog.

My very own simple yet sensational homemade tomato sauce.

I quite happily made a total mess out of my kitchen sink and counter, using far more kitchen equipment than I usually allow a meal to require; keep in mind I don't have a dish washer. I even got to break out the 2-quart Le Creuset bestowed upon me by my aunt, the perfect prep for breaking in the gorgeous birthday gift 5-quart later this autumn.

Simple and pretty; how much better can it get?

I'm generally quite happy to try new recipes that require a big chunk of my time for two reasons: one, I find time spent on a dish is usually proportional to its overall taste and flavor; and two, I'm a college student and have plenty (and I mean plenty) to read in the downtime that is stirring, simmering, and baking. But if you're not usually a cooking-all-afternoon person, at least consider giving this dish a try. The gorgeous smell wafting through your house alone will make it worth the effort. And that's before you even take a bite.

This photo makes me wish I still had leftovers.

Baked Pasta with Homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella
inspired by Orangette and Kerri Conan

2.5 lbs fresh tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 lb small pasta, such as shells
1/4 lb Parmesan, freshly grated
8 oz. mozzarella, sliced
fresh basil

For the sauce: Core the fresh tomatoes and pulse until relatively smooth in a food processor. In a 2-quart saucepan (or preheated round oven), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute until it becomes aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes to the pot and dust with salt. Cook the tomatoes on relatively high heat; the sauce should bubble, as you're carmelizing the tomatoes as opposed to stewing them. Cook until the sauce is reduced by at least half, about 30 minutes, or to your desired thickness.

For the pasta bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, tossing it with half the tomato sauce and grated Parmesan. In an 8''-by-8'' casserole, layer half the pasta mixture, half the remaining sauce, half the Parmesan, half the mozzarella, and half the basil. Repeat using the remaining ingredients. Cook for 15 minutes or until bubbling, then broil the top for an additional 2 or 3 minutes if your casserole dish is broiler safe. Briefly let cool, then dig in.

Note: Amazingly enough, this really does seem to get better as leftovers the next day. It's the one time I'm glad my dad isn't here to take over leftover disposal duty.

1 comment:

Amy's Mom said...

It makes me sad that fresh tomato season is almost over. Your pasta looks delish! Hope Grandma's food processor is working for you.