Kitchen Counter Pasta

September 6, 2010

It’s almost cheating to even call this a recipe. It’s more like a method…a very forgiving, adaptable method. Well, providing that you have awesome tomatoes, which we happen to have right now. So make this in the next couple of weeks and ignore it until summer rolls around again, okay?

Damn, I’m getting as bossy as Ina. Forgive me, readers. I promise that I won’t tell you to use the *good* olive oil in this recipe. Actually…I’m a liar. Do. But feel free to use the shitty Parmesan. Oh, wait. Don’t do that either. I don’t know how you put up with me, truly…

Anyways, you know those days when you’re just hanging around the house and a friend calls and says, “Hey! I’m in the neighborhood. Do you mind if I stop by?”

You do?  Seriously? Who are you people?

Food Network chefs use that lead in all the time–“This is a great recipe for times when friends just unexpectedly drop in…”

Um, that has never happened to me. Never. Maybe because I have no friends. I have an aversion to, you know, people. Actually, I do have a  few friends and they have blessedly never pulled surprise visits, probably because they know that I am an anal-retentive freak. If I’m not expecting you and my doorbell rings? I assume that you are the creepy meat man and hide in the closet for at least 15 minutes.

I digress. In truth, this recipe needs a couple of hours to reach peak greatness, but it’s a lazy few hours. So if you do have friends, and they pop by, pour some tea or a glass of wine and catch up while this sauce “cooks” in the beauty of the afternoon sun. Then toss in some pasta and enjoy the wealth of friendship.

A nice thing about this recipe is that it’s perfect for people who enjoy the taste of garlic, but are averse to bits of it in their food. The tomatoes bathe in crushed cloves of garlic and then the garlic gets tossed, providing the best of both wolds. Another great thing about this recipe? You can throw just about anything into it and it will adapt beautifully. I’ve flung in cooked asparagus, roasted zucchini, crisped bacon, a lovely tin of Italian tuna…you get the idea. Like the best of friends, this recipe is quite forgiving.

Kitchen Counter Pasta

serves 2 generously (can easily be doubled…for people who have friends)

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, or 3 large, fat, good tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 healthy glugs olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

1/3-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

generous grinds of fresh black pepper

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (but not chopped–you pick them out later)

4 ounces dried spaghetti or linguine, cooked*, about 1/2 cup pasta water reserved

1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped**

1/2 cup fresh basil, torn

1/3 cup Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese, grated

salt, pepper and extra cheese to taste

optional: capers, sliced kalamata olives, leftover rotisserie chicken, crushed red pepper, or–heck with it–damn near any leftover you’d like to use up.

Cut tomatoes and place into a large glass bowl. Add the olive oil, smashed garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and generous grinds of pepper. Toss together and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place on a semi-sunny, warm kitchen counter for several hours or until flavors are well blended and juices are running.

Remove garlic cloves with a fork or slotted spoon. To the tomato mixture (do not drain liquid! That’s the good stuff!), toss in basil, parsley and 1/3 cup parmesan. Add drained hot pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.

Toss. If pasta seems dry, add reserved pasta water by tablespoon-fuls until moistened. Taste for salt and pepper; add additional cheese or toss-ins, if desired.

Bonus: this tastes terrific both hot and at room temperature, so if it’s hella hot outside, pour another beverage, visit a while longer, and serve when you are ready.

* I know!! 2 ounces of pasta per person seems parsimonious, but honestly, that’s the recommended serving. American restaurants have fooled us into thinking that anything less than 4 ounces of pasta is chintzy, but there are so many tomatoes in the dish that the serving actually feels quite hearty. Still, if you wanna go all abondanza and increase the amount of pasta, go ahead. I won’t judge (well, unless you use the shitty olive oil). Just adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

** You can use lesser amounts of the basil and parsley. I like mine really herby, but it might put some people off. You can start with 1/4 cup of each and then put extra on the table if you like.

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