Back in August, during my rejoicing at my sneaky garden going rogue and growing things with or without me, I mentioned one of the delicious dishes that resulted: the recipe I’m sharing here today: Slow-Roasted Tomotoes on Conchiglia, with Warmed Olives. It very quickly became one of my Very Favourite meals.
Its secret weapon is, well, there are several secret weapons. First, the tomatoes in were fresh, fresh, fresh. I managed to get four meals-worth of tomatoes out of my garden which was AWESOME; however, I’ve also made it a couple of times with store-bought toms and it was just as delicious. If anything, because you’re slow-roasting the tomatoes, it makes the flavour of the store-boughts soar.
Second, the tomatoes are slow-roasted with slivers of garlic: 2 to 3 cloves minimum, depending on the strength. I’ve noted before I am a garlic maven, so sometimes I’ll go for even more. And just before you start holding your nose just reading about it, because you’re roasting the garlic in slivers, it really takes the pong off.
Third, the whole dish is laid on a bed of fresh salad leaves, which makes it seem terribly wholesome and good for you. I foraged for my own wild rocket leaves all summer and they have bite like you wouldn’t believe. This dish works just as well with any salad leaf; the last time I made it I used dandelion leaves ‘harvested’ from my garden (intentionally cultivated, of course) and bagged spinach from the grocers and it was beautiful.
Fourth, the warmed olives give it a final kick that will leave you melting in your chair. It is that good.
I’ve added a few notes at the bottom, about the ‘real’ way to cook pasta, factoring in timings and the amount of tomatoes I suggest using (lest you look at the list and think I’m nuts).
4 tbsp. olive oil (extra virgin or otherwise)
1 1/2 lb. fresh tomatoes, halved and quartered, depending on size
2-3 large cloves garlic, sliced lengthways into slivers
1 tbsp., plus a pinch, dried oregano (or several sprigs fresh)
4 oz. fresh Kalamata olives, quartered lengthways and pitted
7 oz. conchiglia (shell pasta)
enough salad leaves to make a bed on each plate
black pepper to taste
Pre-heat to the oven to about 400 F/gas 7. In a large roasting tray, with sides at least 1-inch high, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil until warm enough to easily coat the bottom.
Arrange the tomatoes cut-side up, add the garlic slivers, several generous pinches of salt, some black pepper and the dried oregano (if using), drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp. and toss to ensure everything is nicely coated. (If you are using fresh herbs, scatter these over top now.) Place the tray in the upper half of the oven and leave to roast for about 45 minutes to an hour.
After about 45 minutes the tomatoes should have collapsed into themselves and there ought to be the beginnings of a nice seedy jus mingling with the olive oil. When the tomatoes have arrived at this point, bring a pot of water to the boil. Once the water is boiling on the stove top add the pasta to the water, add the olives to the tomatoes in the oven, keeping a few aside for the garnish if desired (see below).
When the pasta is just about finished, remove the tomatoes from the oven and pass a spatula underneath them, which will nudge any that have started to stick and get the whole lots nicely mixed up.
Prepare the plates by lining them each with a bed of salad leaves. Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it, then distribute over your plates. Spoon the tomato mixture over the pasta layer. Garnish in the centre with a bit of fresh chopped herbs if you have them or a spoon of finely chopped olives.
1: This recipe makes about 3 meals, well, say, 2 meals for dinner with enough for a decent lunch the next day.
2: The ingredients list is really flexible and completely depends on your own personal preference. Because the tomatoes reduces quite a lot, I would say you need just over half a pound per person (or a over kilo for a family of 4), and here, admittedly, I opt for more veg than pasta. However, you may not be as massive gluttons as we are when it comes to your veggies.
3: If you need to wait to start cooking the pasta (which should be done only just before serving), leave the tomatoes in the oven with the heat almost turned off. They should be fine. I would pass a spatula under them to ensure they don’t stick. I wouldn’t, however, recommend leaving them like this for too long if you can help it.
4: According to those in the know, the best way to prepare water for pasta is the salt it and add the oil just as the water has settled into a simmer. You should add about a teaspoon (5 ml) salt per person and ‘line’ the surface with oil, the correct method for which, says my cousin Guiseppe (all right, Joe), is to make two wide circles in the water and draw a line through them with your oil.
5: The amount of time it takes to cook pasta seems to vary significantly. In my kitchen it takes about 12 minutes to cook pasta, whether it’s for 2 people or 6. In other kitchens it takes longer. The same applies for bringing the water to the boil. In my kitchen, it takes about 12 minutes, but in my parents’ house growing up it would take about half an hour. Don’t forget to accommodate these factors when timing this meal!