Try this pasta verde with roasted tomatoes and asparagus for that summer vibe, when the tomatoes are at their tastiest.
It can be made year round, provided you can get hold of some quality cherry tomatoes. They seem to be available from good vegetable stores almost all year, so this is a wonderful meal when you just feel a bit like a taste of summer.
It’s a great dish to serve when you have friends around. Make the pasta a couple of hours ahead and hang it, or coat in semolina so it doesn’t stick together. Then all you have to do is just cook it in boiling water.
Or better still – roll the pasta with your friends! It’s a fun thing to do with others, especially if you have a hand pasta roller and not an electric one. One person to feed the pasta in and roll while the other holds it as it emerges. It gets longer and longer, so can be tricky to do on your own! I’m lucky, I have an electric attachment for my KitchenAid and that’s made pasta making so much easier.
The roasted tomatoes make one of the lowest effort sauces you can think of! They cook in the oven with the garlic and all you have to do is mix through the pasta when it’s cooked.
The asparagus can be blanched for 30 seconds or so, then charred on a barbecue grill for extra flavour and cut into lengths. It works beautifully with the tomatoes. Don’t like asparagus? Easy – just leave it out!
Level it up
The roasted tomatoes are gorgeous as they are and simply mixed through the pasta, finished with a few on top. Don’t worry if you can’t get them on the vine, that looks fancy but isn’t a make or break.
But if you’re using a good quality dried pasta you can level this up with the help of some pasta water, freshly ground black pepper and pecorino cheese. Mixing these extras through the simple tomato sauce transforms it into something decadent and rich that comes with bragging rights. It’s inspired by the famous Roman Cacio e Pepe, just with the addition of tomatoes. It’s divine and definitely worth trying. I’ll add the instructions below the recipe if you want to check it out.
Enough said – let’s get to the recipe.
Level it up
For a cacio e pepe inspired sauce, use a good quality dried pasta instead of fresh and cook in less water than normal so it goes nice and starchy. The best pasta for this is a robust pasta from Gragnano, Italy. It’s on the way to the clifftops above the Amalfi Coast, where I recently spent three days cooking with an Italian nonna. More on that soon! Gragnano pasta cooks to a perfect al dente and holds the sauce perfectly.
When the pasta is cooked, remove the tomatoes from the oven and squash lightly with a fork along with the roasted garlic. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix through the tomatoes, adding pasta water and grated pecorino cheese to form a creamy tomato sauce.
Add the asparagus to this version if you want. Or leave it out and serve in pasta bowls with grated parmigiano reggiano on the side to sprinkle on if you want that extra cheesy boost.
Not all pastas are created equal
It’s true you know – dried pasta comes in all shapes and sizes – and qualities. Although I ditched poor quality soggy supermarket pasta years ago, it’s only in more recent times that I’ve realised just how much difference there is in pasta quality.
This was highlighted by a series by one of the YouTube cooks I follow all about dried pasta. Alex, aka French Guy Cooking, set out on a mission to make dried pasta and discovered just how much of an artform it is along the way. If you have an interest and haven’t discovered his channel, I’d recommend watching this pasta series!
I’m currently using Gentile pasta that I’ve found in Melbourne’s Mediterranean Wholesalers. Garofalo is another brand from Gragnano. There are others out there, just search your local area and you should find a specialist Italian grocery that stocks it.
The down side of this quality pasta is that it can be pricey. If you can’t get hold of it or your budget won’t stretch that far for pasta, just get the best you can and try not to overcook it. Pasta shouldn’t be soggy!
If you want a simpler home-made pasta version without the addition of spinach, check out my basic home-made pasta recipe. It will work with the tomato sauce just as well as what sauce you want!