Monday, March 26, 2012

Cooking with Lydia: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Slow Roasted Grape Tomatoes!

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Today's recipe is healthy, delicious, and easily adaptable to suite even the most picky of palates! It's actually a combination of two different recipes. Both are fantastic alone, but when combined....Ahh-mazing! The first recipe is my simple interpretation of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. It is a simple dish with pasta, EVOO, garlic, fresh herbs, and peppercorn. I like making my pasta that way on days when I really don't want a heavy sauce. Sometimes, the most simple ingredients give off the most incredible flavor in the foods you cook!

The second recipe is for roasted grape tomatoes; they taste a bit like sun dried tomatoes and are absolutely delicious! I've been using this recipe for years now; I came up with this combination of herbs/spices through trial and error, and personally I think it's quite yummy! It's probably one my my most flavorful and versatile recipes! The key is to put the tomatoes and all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and let them soak for a bit so that they absorb all of the flavor before you start cooking them. If you simply top the tomatoes with a drizzle of EVOO and such, it won't be as flavorful; coat the entire tomato! You can use these slow roasted tomatoes in pastas, lasagnas, with bread as a bruschetta, in salads, or even eat them on their own. They are THAT incredible! They are very easy to prepare too! Once you prep them, you simply pop them into the oven and forget about them for about three hours. (That gives you time to do your nails, catch a shower, watch your favorite show, clean house, or do whatever you like!)

Part one: Slow Roasted Tomatoes

~Preheat oven to 250 degrees~

(Keep in mind that I usually "eyeball" my ingredients, so the amounts below are just a rough estimation. Feel free to use as much or as little as you like to achieve the level of intensity you desire.I like a slight kick to my food, but nothing too overly crazy.)

(All of the ingredients laid out; I forgot to include the garlic in this picture!)
1 small carton of grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp Black Peppercorn
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
2 TBSP Minced Garlic (forgot to include it in the picture above!)
1/2 tsp Fresh Cilantro (finely minced)
1/2 tsp Fresh Curly Parsley (finely minced) (This Parsley is a bit strong; a little goes a long way!)
1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning (Green container)
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (These are powerful; use as much or as little as you'd like!)
1 TBSP Fresh Dill (finely minced)
1/2 tsp Basil (fresh if you have it. My grocery store was out, so I used freeze-dried instead)

What to do:
~Halve the tomatoes.
~Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and gently mix together. Be careful not to crush the tomatoes.
~Let the tomatoes and other ingredients sit in mixing bowl for about 5-10 minutes.

(They should look like this!)

~Give the tomatoes and ingredients one more stir to make sure you've coated the tomatoes evenly
~Place tomatoes on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet so that the cut halves face upwards.

(This is how your they should look prior to going in the oven; it's ok if some have more seasoning than others; they don't have to be perfect!)

~Cook in oven for around 3 hours. (Personally, I use my toaster oven for these and find that they always turn out well! Why light my big oven and heat my house up when they fit in the toaster oven?!)

~Check them periodically to make sure that they look are looking good! The bold red color should remain, and the edges should be a bit withered. The key is to take them out while they still are a bit juicy in the center, but withered on the edges.

(This is what they look like when they're done! Sorry, not the best quality picture! I assure you that they are delicious!)
Closer look at them: the edges should be "withered" and the centers should still be juicy
So tasty!!

While the tomatoes are cooking...

~Make your pasta in the last half hour before you take the tomatoes out of the oven, so that everything will be fresh and ready to serve!

Part Two: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

-Pasta cooked until al-dente. Be sure that you do not overcook your pasta! (I used Barilla's Whole Grain Thin Spaghetti; since I only made one serving size for myself; feel free to adjust the recipe as needed for your family! If you're looking for a great whole grain pasta that does not taste like cardboard, try Barilla!!!)
~1/2 TBSP Crushed Red Pepper flakes (remember to go easy on these since you already seasoned your tomatoes with them! If you like a little kick though, feel free to use more.)
~2 TBSP Minced Garlic (A fresh garlic clove is best, but you can use the jarred garlic too)
~1/2 tsp Black Peppercorn
~1/2 tsp Sea Salt 
~2 TBSP Fresh Dill Weed
~1 tsp Basil
~Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to lightly coat the pasta)

~Lightly toss together cooked pasta and other ingredients~

This is what the pasta should look like before you add the tomatoes and Parmesan. It's hard to tell from the picture, but I promise that all of the ingredients are in there!

~Top pasta with slow cooked tomatoes and fresh grated Parmesan cheese! (Asiago or Smoked Gouda would compliment this recipe well too!)


Here's what the finished product looks like! It's delicious!
Close up!
Are you hungry yet???

Lydia's Cooking Tip: Substitutions! If you are out of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can use a bit of wine instead. Out of wine too? Use a pinch of Grape Juice! 

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