Spaghetti with Basil Pesto & Oven-Roasted Tomatoes with Homemade Garlic Breadcrumbs

MONDAY

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti  |   Basil Pesto  |  Oven-Roasted, Mini Sugar-Plum Tomatoes  |  Homemade Garlic Breadcrumbs

Intro Collage

This dish is probably our favorite summer pasta.  Showcasing two of the season’s stars, basil & tomatoes, this garden pasta makes the perfect dinner on a warm summer evening.

Keep in mind that the recipes below {especially the pesto & the breadcrumbs} yield “batch” quantities…providing much more than what we need for one dinner.  Each one of these toppings has several other uses outside of our meal this evening and we will be using them in breakfasts & lunches for the rest of the week…

  • The Tomatoes ~ serve as a side with eggs, on top of a scoop of cottage cheese or use them to make a salsa.
  • The Pesto ~ great served with Grilled Chicken Breasts, topping this lovely Egg Sandwich, or this Soup. Oh, and you really should try it stuffed inside Flank Steak.
  • The Breadcrumbs ~ a great topping for any type of pasta and try adding them to Caesar Salad instead of heavier, large croutons.  A wonderful way to get “garlic bread taste” with a fraction of the calories & carbs.

…but each recipe can easily be halved.  For storing, keep in mind that, especially for the tomatoes and the pesto,  “air is the enemy” {in the words of Ina Garten}.  Each should be stored in containers with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator, and {as noted below} both the tomatoes and pesto need a thin covering of olive oil for added protection.  Stored in this manner, these foods keep nicely for up to a week.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes {adapted from Smitten Kitchen}

  • 1 pint mini sugar-plum tomatoes halved lengthwise {you can substitute cherry tomatoes}
  • 4-5 whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-5  whole sprigs of fresh oregano
  • a sprinkling of sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes & garlic with the olive oil and then lay out on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Top with the sprigs of fresh oregano. 
  3. Roast the tomatoes {with the garlic} at this low heat until they begin to curl, shrivel & brown a bit {about 3 hours}.  Remove from the oven, discard the sprigs of oregano and peel the garlic, and serve immediately or allow to cool and then store in the refrigerator {preferably in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and a thin layer of olive oil covering the tomatoes} for up to a week.

Tomatoes Collage

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While the tomatoes are roasting, make the pesto & the breadcrumbs…

Many recipes favor a purée-style of pesto.  The following recipe reflects my desire for a pesto with a bit more texture.  In her book, In The Green Kitchen:  Techniques To Learn By Heart , Alice Waters uses a method of “pounding a sauce” utilizing a mortar & pestle while Heidi at 101 Cookbooks prefers the hand-chopping method in her How To Make Pesto Like An Italian Grandmother recipe.  Given my tight schedule this afternoon, I resorted to the quick and convenient food processor.  However, by processing the nuts & garlic first, and then removing them from the processor bowl before proceeding with the basil leaves, eventually reuniting them before adding the oil, I achieved my desired texture.  Note:  when processing the basil leaves, be sure to stop the motor, uncover the bowl and stir up the leaves frequently during the process.  This helps prevent over-processed {liquified} leaves at the bottom of the bowl and large chunks of leaves at the top.

Basil Pesto {adapted from Alice Waters & Ina Garten}

  • ½ cup pignolis {pine nuts}
  • 5 tablespoons chopped garlic {approximately 9-11 cloves}
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Clean the basil by removing the leaves and swirling them in a bowl of water.  Then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. If not using immediately, the basil can be stored in a glass dish with a tight-fitting lid {or a sealed plastic bag} with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.
  2. Place the pignolis and  the garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Remove mixture to a separate small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper to the bowl of the food processor and pulse/chop until the leaves are minced.  Add the reserved pignolis/garlic mixture to the minced basil leaves in the food processor.  With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is well-moistened but still has some texture.
  4. Remove the pesto from the processor to a bowl and add the Parmesan, stirring well to combine. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator {preferably in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid with a thin film of olive oil covering the pesto} for up to a week.

Basil Pesto Collage

Homemade Breadcrumbs {adapted from Alice Waters’, In the Green Kitchen}

  • 2 loaves, crusty artisan bread {a day or two old}
  • Extra-virgin olive oil {1 tablespoon for every 1 cup of breadcrumbs}
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Take the bread & remove the crusts.  Cut the remaining bread into cubes.   Process the bread cubes in a food processor in small batches.
  3. To toast the breadcrumbs, toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for every cup of breadcrumbs {my two loaves yielded roughly 8 cups of breadcrumbs so I added 8 tablespoons of olive oil} and sprinkle with a bit of salt.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake until golden brown, stirring frequently for even coloring.  When done, remove the breadcrumbs from the oven to a large bowl and toss with the minced garlic.

Breadcrumb Collage

Cook the pasta according to package directions and serve the pasta topped with some of the pesto and roasted tomatoes as well as a sprinkling of the garlic breadcrumbs and one very sweet roasted garlic clove. The final dinner plate…

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