It's Tomato Season, everybody!! Alé!!
I love tomatoes. Always have. When I was a child, I used to sneak out to the tomato vines in my mother's vegetable patch, swipe a few, and eat them like apples, hiding under the long branches of the big fir tree at the bottom of the garden.
When I was expecting my first child, it was tomatoes that I craved... day and night. During the secretive months of my first trimester, I worried that visitors to my house would be "on to me" and my delicate condition as soon as they saw the contents of my refrigerator. Beef steak tomatoes, bags of hot house tomatoes, little plastic boxes of sweet grape tomatoes, and cans and cans of tomato juice... It was all I ingested for three months. Until the heartburn set in, that is. And then I just added a chaser of Tums, because the craving didn't care that my esophageal lining was rapidly eroding...
Summertime is the perfect time to indulge in my passion for tomatoes, and this week, I bought my first enormous basket from the farm. People, the beautifully plump, red fruit was still warm from the sun.
I also bought several bunches of fresh herbs (my own garden's supply having been depleted by the intense heat and drought) and some huge cloves of garlic.
And this is what I concocted for dinner last night... If you've got air conditioning in your house and don't mind turning on the oven at 425 degrees for an hour, it's WELL worth it!
Spaghetti with Baked Summer Tomatoes
12 medium-to-large firm, ripe tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
1/2 c grated Asiago cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large, shallow casserole with olive oil. Halve the tomatoes width-wise and place them cut-side up in the pan. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Combine 1/3 c of the parsley with the oil and garlic in a small bowl; spread over the tops of the tomatoes. Bake until the tomatoes are lightly browned, about one hour. If the tomato skins are a bit tough, remove them from about 12 of the tomato halves with your fingers as soon as they are cool enough to handle... Be careful not to burn yourself! They should slip off fairly easily.
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain it just until a small amount of the cooking water is left in the pot. This will keep it warm for a few minutes, and can be drained off as soon as you are ready to combine the pasta with the sauce.
In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring gently until it begins to turn golden brown and fragrant, about one minute. Remove from the heat, stir it to cool slightly, and then pour it into a large, warm serving bowl. Add the 12 skinned baked tomato halves, the basil and the remaining parsley, and mash it together gently with a fork. Drain the spaghetti, and add it and the Asiago cheese to the serving bowl with the mashed tomatoes. Toss it a little bit to combine the ingredients. Top with the remaining tomato halves, and drizzle with the pan juices.
This can be served warm, or at room temperature.
And it is so delicious, you just won't believe it! The perfect way to celebrate Tomato Season.