Gretchen’s Table: Cherry Tomato Pasta

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

PHOTO CREDIT: Tribune News Service

Pasta is a favorite for dinner because it doesn’t generally require a lot of special ingredients or equipment.

That said, a dish of noodles covered in red or meat sauce can feel a bit heavy when it’s warm outside. The solution? Toss the pasta instead with a simple sauce made with cherry tomatoes, garlic and Italian herbs.

This recipe only takes about 15 minutes start to finish, is fresh and light and involves hardly any cleanup.

Cherry tomatoes burst open and get jammy when you cook them, so all you need is a little white wine and some grated Parmesan cheese. I also like to add fresh sweet basil and mini mozzarella pearls to evoke the flavors of a caprese salad. A generous sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs goes on top.

This recipe isn’t technically a one-pan dish because you have to cook the pasta separately from the sauce. But it’s close.

Cherry Tomato Pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup torn rustic Italian or ciabatta bread

Pinch of dried basil, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound spaghetti, fettuccine or other long-cut pasta

4 cups red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, some sliced in half and others whole

2 large cloves garlic, smashed

1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large handful fresh basil, thinly sliced

1 cup mini mozzarella balls

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

While water is heating up, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the bread and a pinch of dried basil, dried oregano and red pepper flakes.

Cook until breadcrumbs are toasted and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer breadcrumbs to a plate.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.

While pasta is cooking, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme and oregano and give it a good stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like things. Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and pop, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet, along with a splash or two of the pasta cooking water. Toss gently to combine, then stir in Parmesan cheese and shredded basil. If needed, you can thin the sauce with a little more pasta water.

Remove from heat, and add mozzarella balls and breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Gretchen McKay writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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