Linguine with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

melting pot adventures in food

The climate where I live can best be described as “indecisive.” At times, it can also be referred to as “erratic” or, if things are really not going well, “torturous.” As a result of our unpredictable weather patterns, our garden can oftentimes get very confused. Just as our tomatoes are entering into their peak stages of plump ripeness, the rains come, drowning the tomatoes and forcing us to harvest everything in sight before the mildew sets in. But, as with this week, sometimes the torrential rains are followed by an unexpected run of several hot and lovely days, causing us all to pause in our garden purging and wonder just how long we can wait out the arrival of autumn.

I feel our garden’s pain, really. Whatever uncertainty our garden suffers from the cold-warm-cold patterns of weather, so goes my performance in the kitchen. When things are hot, I want to eat nothing but seasoned vegetables scooped onto slices of grilled bread, accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine. When the weather is cold, I turn to roasting, baking, and braising everything in sight. A few days ago, hobbled by a wicked bad chest cold and utterly confounded by a train of clouds that simply would not release the sun, I gave in to the blast of autumn weather and decided that it was high time I began to roast things. In a bit of a nod to the fact that we are still, technically, riding out the end of summer, it just so happened that the subject of my roasting turned out to be an enormous armload of fresh garden tomatoes.

A lot of people will tell you that the only tomatoes worth roasting are either plum tomatoes or grape tomatoes, but I have found that sentiment to be solidly untrue. Every year I roast not only the San Marzano tomatoes from our garden, but also whatever heirloom tomatoes we decided to take a stab at growing, and I have yet to find myself disappointed with the results. Even while suffering the malaise of a terrible cold, a batch of roasted tomatoes and garlic is unparalleled in its ability to raise my spirits.

About half an hour after I placed this particular batch in the oven, a gorgeous aroma began to emanate from the stove, working its way softly through first the kitchen, and eventually every other room in the house. A heady and comforting scent, it worked wonders for bolstering my lost appetite and lifting my mood. If the end of summer is going to signify the beginning of food this satisfying, I think I’m okay with that.

Linguine with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

As you will see, this is not a dish that appears quickly (though I guarantee you it will certainly disappear quickly). The tomatoes, to really achieve a deep, caramelized flavor, will need to roast for a couple of hours, so plan accordingly. I recommend this as a lazy weekend sort of dish, since the roasting time may require some waiting, but as far as working goes, it’s your stove, not you, that is partaking in all of the prolonged labor.

3 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes
6 large cloves unpeeled garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound linguine
handful fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Core tomatoes, then slice into quarters. Place tomatoes and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and toss to thoroughly coat all the tomatoes.

On the center rack of the oven, roast tomatoes and garlic for 2 hours, until both are extremely soft all over and caramelized at the edges. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and allow the tomatoes and garlic to cool slightly. Separate the garlic cloves from the tomatoes, and peel the paper off of the garlic. Place the roasted garlic cloves back with the tomatoes.

While you allow the tomatoes to cool for a bit, boil the pasta in well-salted water until al dente, making sure the pasta still retains some firmness in each bite. Drain the pasta and reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.

Scrape the tomatoes and garlic into the bowl of a food process or blender. Process or blend for just a few seconds, until the tomatoes have formed a thick sauce, but large chunks of tomato still remain. If you are using a blender to puree the sauce, do not place the lid firmly over the top of the blender. The steam from the tomatoes could force the lid off of the blender and cause quite an alarming tomato explosion.

In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce with the pasta. Toss thoroughly, adding a small bit of reserved pasta water if you find your pasta has absorbed a great deal of the liquid from the sauce and is becoming dry. (I did not need to add any pasta water this time, but I have in the past and find that it’s better to be prepared than not.) Serve pasta with a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil, and, if you desire, a bit of Parmesan cheese.

About the contributor:

Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.

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