Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Pasta For All Seasons

I just finished a meal so incredible that I felt the need to share it immediately. My latest issue of Bon Appétit magazine was waiting for me when I arrived home from my weekend in Sonoma, and ever since then, I have been impatient to make this recipe. Bon Appétit has been a ubiquitous culinary influence throughout my life. It was treated as a kind of bible and an inspiration. Every Thanksgiving menu of my childhood was culled from back issues of this magazine, and I knew who Barbara Fairchild was before I ever cared about cooking. But, when I decided to go vegan, I resigned myself to gazing longingly at recipes I would never get to make each month. So, imagine my delight when I found a totally vegan recipe (save the superfluous parmesan cheese topping) in the middle of my magazine: Perciatelli with Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto. I had to take this as a sign of Bon Appétit’s increasing awareness and acceptance of vegan cooking. Hooray! 

The beauty of this recipe is its seasonal flexibility. Making it in the summer gives you an opportunity to lovingly use the season’s best fruit: tomatoes. But, as I was eating it, I was looking forward to a cozy bowl of pasta on a drizzly winter night. It reminded me of a vegan version of tomato cream sauce, something I have always relished. However, without the cream, the sauce maintains the brightness of tomato and its smoky almond flavor. In my effort to eat greens twice a day, I paired this dish with kale sautéed simply with garlic and olive oil and a final splash of lemon juice. I’m including the pasta recipe below with my adjustments. It seems only appropriate to end by saying, Bon Appétit!

2 ¾ pounds tomatoes cored, halved, seeded (whatever is in season, even if it’s canned)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
¾ cup whole raw almonds
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound perciatelli, bucatini (or spaghetti, if you must)

Preheat oven to 375º. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure to cover the corners (I spent 20 minutes scraping the juices off my pan). In a large bowl, combine tomato halves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons oregano, and a pinch of salt. Stir. Place tomato halves, cut side down on the parchment and cover with any remnant juices. Add garlic cloves to the pan. Bake for roughly 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft. Remove garlic. Flip tomatoes over and continue baking until they are browned, but not burned. This will take a variable amount of time depending on the size of your tomatoes; 10-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

While the tomatoes are in the oven, place almonds in a small oven proof dish and bake 10-15 minutes, until dark gold. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

 In a food processor, combine ⅔ of the tomatoes, ½ cup of the almonds, the garlic, peeled, and crushed red pepper. Pulse until the mixture is puréed. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or as much as you need) and combine. Taste for salt and pepper.

Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. When the pasta is close to done, mix the pesto with ½ cup of the pasta water in a large sauté pan and add the remaining roasted tomatoes. Stir until the sauce is smooth. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauté pan and toss to combine. Serve immediately with the remaining almonds and oregano sprinkled on top. 

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