Meatless Monday Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce

From the “How Easy Can it Be?” file, I bring you Baked Tomato Pasta.  And just how easy CAN it be, you ask?  As it turns out, it can be WAY easy.  One of the best pastas you’ll ever have the pleasure of slurping off a fork comes to you with less effort than it takes to figure out what what’s for dinner tonight.

I must give total credit here to Louisa of the Wednesday Chef blog.  She posted this recipe not long ago and I was enraptured by the idea baking fresh tomatoes with breadcrumbs and cheese and then mixing this lovely concoction with spaghetti, basil and more cheese. 

This is a totally easy and do-able Meatless Monday meal that’s ever so satisfying and totally beyond delicious.

The hardest thing you’ll have to do here is cut a few tomatoes in half.  This dish practically makes itself.  But I know there are a few of you out there who are saying, “well, that’s just TOO easy”.  We would like to put in a little more effort when making dinner.  OK,  For those of you who feel this might be just a little too easy, I’m going to give you a little upgraded version…

Instead of using cherry tomatoes, use about 4 or 5 ripe roma tomatoes.  Cut a little X in the bottom of each tomato and plunge them into boiling water for no more than 2 minutes.  Peel the tomatoes and chop them into medium-sized chunks and proceed with the recipe as written.

Still not enough work?  OK.  Grab some fresh parsley and chop that into the breadcrumb mixture.  That’s as hard as I’m going to make this.  And, really, you’re right, it’s still super easy.

Fortunately for us, ease of preparation is no indication of the quality of the final product.  This stuff rocks!

PASTA WITH BAKED TOMATO SAUCE

Recipe adapted from the Wednesday Chef

Printable Recipe

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino (or, if you don't have this, just more Parmigiano)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried penne or spaghetti
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with one-third of the oil. Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheeses, and garlic and toss with a fork to mix well. Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Time the pasta so it finishes cooking about the time the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven.

4. When the tomatoes are done, add the basil and stir vigorously to mix everything into a sauce. Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to the baking dish. Add the remaining olive oil and mix well. Serve at once.