We just set our clocks forward, spring training baseball is finally here and the Catholic church next to our home is holding Lenten fish fries … all harbingers of spring in my book and I can’t wait! Maybe that’s why I was jonesing for some homegrown tomatoes as I was wandering around the produce section of our local grocery store. Of course there were none to be had so I grabbed the closest thing I could find … tomatoes packaged with the vines still intact … it may just be a marketing ploy, but it worked on me.
Now that I had them, what to do next? To avoid the potential disappointment of serving them raw and having them taste nothing like the home-grown varieties I was longing for … I decided to roast them. You really can’t go wrong with roasting vegetables.
I completed my rounds through the grocery store and grabbed everything I thought would go well with the roasted tomatoes that were running through my brain … fresh mozzarella, bacon, linguine, capers, garlic … check-check-check. Am I the only one that goes into the grocery store without a plan and aimlessly wanders around until I come up with an idea? I hope not!
After getting home I sliced the tomatoes in half around their equator and cut out just a bit out of the center. They got popped in the oven on a foil wrapped (and generously oiled) baking sheet. Along with them went the bacon also on a foil wrapped baking sheet. A co-worker clued me in on baking bacon and it’s the best … cooks evenly and when you’re done simply remove the foil and place your clean baking sheet back in the cabinet. In this case the oven was set to 385° on convection mode … your mileage and cooking times may vary. The bacon finished long before the tomatoes, so I removed it, transferred the strips to dry on some paper towels and scooped up a couple of teaspoons of bacon drippings before I pitched the foil. The bacon drippings were added to a skillet along with 3 tbsp. of butter, 2 tbsp of EVOO, 3-4 tsp of capers and 4 large cloves of garlic that had been finely chopped. This mixture was simmered on low heat until the garlic started to brown.
While this is going on the tomatoes are still merrily roasting in the oven, after about 35-40 minutes I removed them for the next stage. Slice the ball of mozzarella into ¼ thick slices and place on top of the partially roasted tomatoes. If necessary trim the cheese slices so they don’t hang too far over the sides of the tomatoes. Top the mozzarella with bacon pieces and place back in the oven.
The linguine is going to take 9-10 minutes to cook, so start that after the tomatoes have been in the oven an additional 5 or so minutes. At this point switch your oven to broil to get that nice slightly browned finish to the cheese. Once the cheese achieves that state, turn off the oven but leave the tomatoes in until everything else is ready. Drain the linguine and toss in the skillet with you butter-garlic-caper sauce and top with a generous grind of coarse black pepper. Place the roasted tomatoes on top of the pasta along with a sprinkle of fresh or dried parsley.
I was preparing this for 4 servings so I used about 12 ozs. of pasta, obviously if you need more or less servings, everything else scales accordingly.
My families input afterwards … more tomatoes, less pasta … I will keep that in mind because we will be doing this again!