Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Last Chance Pasta: Fettucine with Roasted Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers

The next couple of weeks may be the last hurrah for late-summer crops, in particular heirloom tomatoes and peppers. I already received an email from my wonderful CSA farmer delivering the bad—but inevitable—news that this week’s crop of tomatoes will probably be the final one of the season.
Now I wish I had the time, equipment, and skill-set to jar sauce from a few bushels of end-of-season tomatoes, so we can have them to enjoy through the winter months; but let’s be honest: Between back-to-school chaos, soccer practices, the return of my favorite fall tv programming (Parks and Recreation, you better not get cancelled!), homework, finishing a cookbook, and yelling at my children to practice their guitar, jarring will have to wait a few (many) years.
Instead, I’m making the most of my vegetable stash by cooking up this super simple pasta dish as much as possible: Tomatoes and sweet peppers roasted together in the oven and then tossed with fettuccine. So very easy, so very delicious.The first step is just to roast a few sheet pans of whatever kind of tomatoes and peppers you pick up at your farmer’s market or in your CSA. For this latest batch, I combined grape tomatoes, yellow plum tomatoes (quartered so they roast at the same pace as the smaller grape variety), and orange and yellow peppers (seeds and stems removed and then cut into wedges). I had enough tomatoes/peppers for two trays (placed in a single layer), which was just enough to combine with one box of fettuccine (keeping in mind that the tomatoes become concentrated when they roast, so you need more than you’d think to combine with 1lb of pasta; I actually prefer a ratio of: 2 trays of tomatoes/peppers to 1/2 pound of pasta, because I like lots of roasted vegetables mixed in there, but you can stretch 2 trays to cover 1 pound of pasta).

I drizzled the tomatoes and peppers with just enough olive oil to coat, seasoned well with salt and pepper, and threw in a few thyme sprigs (optional). This went into the oven (preheated at 400) on a middle rack for about 20 minutes, tossing them gently half-way through with a spatula. You know the vegetables are done when they’re melty, silky, a bit broken-down, and there are some caramelized crispy bits sticking to the pan (eat these with your fingers!).

For the fettuccine—I cook it in a large pot of salted water until al dente, reserving a 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water before draining, place the drained pasta back in the pot, and then scrape all of the tomatoes and peppers from the trays right into the pot with the pasta, being sure to include all of the oil and drippings left in the pan (a rubber spatula is good for this job).

Toss the tomatoes, peppers and the pasta together, getting the noodles well coated with the vegetables and oil (maybe squishing the vegetables a bit with the back of a wooden spoon), and adding a splash of the pasta-cooking water to the pot to make it a bit looser and more saucy. Season with more salt and pepper, maybe drizzle in some balsamic vinegar, but only if you have a bottle of the really good stuff hidden in your cupboard.

To serve, all you need is some grated parmesan or pecorino on top, although it’s actually still wonderful without it. Jarring can wait until next year.


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