Slow roasted tomato & garlic spaghetti

dishI make garlic spaghetti, or spaghetti aglio e olio, at least once a week. It’s the perfect go-to weeknight dish, because it’s fast, comforting, and can be as healthy (or not) as you want to make it, depending on your mood (or more often, what’s in the fridge). I have plenty of variations: sometimes with shrimp and a little white wine, often with asparagus or peas, occasionally varying the pasta shape, adding a squeeze of lemon at the end. But the basic recipe remains the same: extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, parmigiano reggiano, and garlic, lots of it.

In summer, I also love to add fresh, local tomatoes from the farmers market, but off season, tomatoes can be just awful. In winter I never ask for tomato on a sandwich I’m ordering, because more often than not it will be a pasty, pale pinkish color, and have exactly no flavor. My slipper would taste better.

beforeBut I recently discovered a wonderful trick for turning lackluster tomatoes into little flavor bombs from this recipe at Smitten Kitchen. I made a few tweaks for our love of garlic and heat, and I am now hooked on this version for garlic spaghetti, at least in colder months. It’s is also an amazing topping for pizza, or to smear on some crostini.

This is an easy thing to do any day or evening you have some time, and then put in the fridge to use later in the week, or freeze for longer storage. I’ve also occasionally added other ingredients to the pan along with the tomatoes and garlic, with great results: thick slices of onion (amazing on pizza!), spears of asparagus, quartered or halved mushrooms. Some vegetables might need removing sooner than others so if you experiment with other veg, check the pan every 20-30 minutes and remove as needed.

Slow roasted tomato & garlic spaghetti, with fresh baby spinach (serves 2)

  • 5-6 Campari tomatoes, or equivalent other small tomato, cut into halves or quarters
  • head of garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • 12 oz spaghetti
  • big handful (about a cup or so) of baby spinach

garlicPreheat oven to 250°. Place the tomatoes and garlic on a sheet pan lined with foil, keeping them separate (as you’ll probably be removing the garlic sooner than the tomatoes, keeping them separate makes that easier). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. Add some crushed red pepper to the tomatoes if you like. Using your hands, gently toss to make sure they are evenly coated with oil & spices.

Place pan on middle rack in oven. Check after 30 minutes, and every 30 minutes thereafter until the garlic is browned in its skin and very soft, and the tomatoes have lost some moisture, are concentrated and edges have begun to caramelize. Each time you check on the tomatoes, use a spoon to move them around a little to be sure they’re not sticking too much or burning, but don’t worry if you see a few brown bits stuck on the foil, as long as the tomatoes still move around. In my oven, the garlic went about a half hour, the tomatoes another hour past that (about 90 minutes altogether).

afterWhen the garlic is done, let the cloves cool a bit on a plate, then remove from their paper husks; the husks will have peeled away so it’s very easy to do. When the tomatoes are done, remove them to a plate as well. (If you’re not using them right away, put in the fridge with a little extra drizzle of olive oil and use within a week or so, or in the freezer if you want to store them longer.)

Cook your pasta according to package directions; before draining save a little pasta water in a measuring cup (1/2 cup or so is fine). While pasta is draining, return pan to medium low heat, drizzle in some olive oil, and when warm, add in the tomatoes and garlic, using a wooden spoon to crushing slightly in the oil. Return the pasta to the pan, along with the spinach, and use tongs to turn and coat the pasta with the vegetables and oil, adding pasta water as needed to loosen to a good consistency. Drizzle in a little more oil if it looks like it needs it, or if you just want it 🙂

Serve in two large bowls, with parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on top to taste. Buon appetito!

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