Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Spinach

RoastedTomatoPastaFinalBlur

An old Italian man lived alone in Jersey. It was spring and he wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very hard work for the aging man, as the ground had compacted over winter. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If only you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son:

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived at the old man’s house and dug up the entire garden area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day, the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Vinnie

Aaah, the things we will do for a good tomato … but lets get cooking!

This dish will delight at least 3 of your senses, it looks great, smells wonderful and tastes delicious. I guess if you ate it with your fingers we could add one more sense to the list (let me know how that works out for you).

Orecchiette pasta originates in the sunny southern province of Puglia, Italy and translated means, “Little Ears”). Traditionally made by curling bits of pasta dough over one’s thumb, the little cup-like shape is great for holding sauces and veggies. It’s slightly chewy texture is the perfect complement to the intense flavors of the roasted tomatoes.

Let’s get started with the tomatoes. If you can get homegrown tomatoes, so much the better, but even in the dead of winter the roasting helps compensate for the store bought varieties. My background is in art and graphic design so I have to confess … I want things to look appealing … if I can get them, I will buy a package of yellow, orange and red grape tomatoes for this dish. Slice them in half, toss in EVOO and place cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet that’s been coated with EVOO. Normally if I’m roasting vegetables (especially root vegetables) I kick the heat up too 400-425 degrees, but in this case I keep it at 350-375 degrees.

You’re probably wondering, “Poppy, how long do you roast the tomatoes”?

BeforeAfter

My flippant answer would be, “until they’re done” … that’s because as a new food blogger I totally forgot to record the time. Fortunately it’s really not that critical. At least 30 minutes or until they are starting to brown on the edges. Turn off the oven and let them sit inside while you prepare everything else.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, coarsely chop 4-5 ounces of baby spinach and wilt in the butter along with 2 teaspoons of diced garlic (more if you’re concerned about vampires). Once the pasta is finishing cooking, toss in the spinach, butter, garlic mix … add coarse ground black pepper. Top with the roasted tomatoes and a generous portion of fresh grated parmesan (don’t you dare shake that out of a plastic jar)!

If you have extra roasted tomatoes they will keep several days in your fridge and would be more than happy to jump on a salad or into a soup.


Difficulty: Easy-Peasy!

Ingredients: 

  • 12 ozs. Orecchiette pasta
  • enough grape tomatoes to fill a good-sized baking sheet
  • 4-5 ozs. baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp. salted butter
  • fresh grated parmesan
  • coarse ground black pepper

Serves: Four

Time: (since I forgot to record the roasting time, who knows?)

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