Last weekend, after reaping the bounty of the Jean-Talon market, M and I decided to make my version of a tasty little pasta dish that we had seen someone prepare on television a few days earlier. It uses fresh cherry tomatoes and heaps of fresh herbs for a delicious sun-soaked late summer delight.
For the fresh herbs we used basil, Italian parsley, and chives, straight from the market. Arugula would also go very nicely in this dish, as would a small amount of fresh oregano. The idea is to use the herbs in abundance — show no restraint — but choose carefully because too much of the wrong herb can throw this dish right off the rails. Basil and parsley are always safe and can make up the bulk of the greenery, but oregano and thyme can be lovely when used sparingly. Most Italian/Mediterranean herbs would work well.
Prepare the herbs by washing gently and then chopping roughly. When you think you have enough, double it. Remember that the herbs are an ingredient, not just a garnish. You should have at least a cup (loosely packed) of herbs, but two cups is better.
This dish prepares quickly — the tomatoes are roasted for five or six minutes, then simmered in a skillet for another five or six minutes. Plan accordingly!
• About 200 grams of spaghetti or spaghettini (enough for two)
• About 500 g. of red and yellow cherry tomatoes (whole)
• Half a teaspoon of dried crushed chiles
• Three large cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced
• A dozen kalamata olives
• A splash of balsamic vinegar
• A mountain of fresh chopped herbs (basil, Italian parsley, and chives)
• Shavings of Parmesano Reggiano for garnish
• Salt and fresh pepper to taste
» Roll the tomatoes in a bit of olive oil and roast in a hot oven (450° F) for five or six minutes. They should be just starting to burst. (You can do this in a toaster oven if you have one of good quality that gets hot enough.)
» In the meantime, drop the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
» Glug a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the dried chiles and swish it around for a few seconds. Add the garlic and continue to stir. Do not let the garlic brown, although it will take on a golden color from the chiles.
» After the garlic has been in the pan for about a minute, reduce the heat a bit and tip in the roasted tomatoes, juices and all. Stir gently.
» (By now the pasta should be almost finished.) Add a pinch of salt and the olives to the tomatoes. Add the vinegar and the herbs. Continue stirring gently (it should be at a medium simmer).
» Drain the pasta and add to the tomato mixture. Toss, and tip into a big Italian Mamma pasta bowl. Scratch on some fresh pepper and garnish with shaved cheese.
» Serve and enjoy!