Half-Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad from Food52

Stop what you're doing. Fire up your oven. Boil a pot of water. Grate a ripe tomato. You won't be sorry.  Mostly because there are tomatoes--lots of them--in this new take on that old summer standby of a pasta salad with raw tomatoes.

As you may have noticed, I have been on a salad kick (see here and here. Oh, and here.). It's summer. Produce is at its peak (or getting close to it), and all I want are tomatoes. And more tomatoes. Lucky for me, there are a plethora of tomato salads out there, and this one from  Food52  is a hit because this summer-time staple of pasta salad with tomatoes brings you tomatoes three ways.

Well, actually it technically brings it to you only two ways, but I made some adjustments to the original recipe.  Let me detail all of my modifications below, including that additional hit of tomatoes:

(1) I got inspired by another salad in the Mighty Salads cookbook: Corn-Barley Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette. That particular vinaigrette requires the grating of a ripe tomato in order to get its pulp and juices (without the skin) in a totally fresh and bright way. So I added it here. (Okay, two tomatoes.) You can leave it out if you're talking nonsense. 

(2) Our leaders at Food52 recommend a 1-hour roasting time for the cherry tomatoes. Maybe it's my oven, but it was way too long, and I was left with charred carcasses of tomato skins. I made another round of tomatoes and cut this back to 45 minutes. Crisis averted.

(3) Additionally they recommend adding 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled, to the tomato roasting pan. Great idea. However, again, I found the roasting time far too long for the cloves of garlic. My garlic came out like pieces of crumbly charcoal--never appetizing in a salad or otherwise. Plus, I don't like garlic. So I cut it. If you like garlic, I imagine the shorter cooking time might be effective.

(4) They call for 1 pound of pasta. That is also nonsense. Pasta salad should be more salad than pasta. So I halved it. You can put the other half pound in. But really, then you're just diluting all this tomato-y goodness. You don't need that in your life.

Okay, beyond the adjustments, let's talk a little more seriously about the end product of the work you're about to embark on. Yes, you need to turn on your oven. Yes, it's August. But it's worth it. The sweet, candy flavor of roasted tomatoes next to the bright acidity of the raw tomatoes (and the extra pulp in the dressing) is a revelation in late summer tomato bliss. You get velvety smooth tomato bombs next to crunchy tomato halves. And then, there is the cheese--torn chunks of creamy mozzarella and flakes of salty parmesan. 

Drat, now I am hungry again.


Half-Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad

Adapted from Mighty Salads 

Serves 4

4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large ripe tomatos
2 Tsp red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar) or to taste
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ pound of casarecce or other tubular pasta
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
⅛ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks
1½ ounces Parmesan, finely chopped or crumbled

1. To make the vinaigrette: Heat an oven to 375℉. Combine 2 cups of the cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of sugar (if using) on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated. Spread the tomatoes into a single layer. Roast until the tomatoes have blistered and shriveled, about 45 minutes. Feel free to give them a stir about halfway through (just be sure to return them to a single layer).

2.  While the cherry tomatoes are roasting, grate the large tomato halves on the large holes of a box grater over a wide bowl, collecting the juice and pulp. Discard the tomato skins. 

3.  Once the 2 cups of cherry tomatoes have come out of the oven, blend together ¼ cup of the blistered tomatoes, the large tomato pulp and juice, the vinegar, the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and the red pepper flakes. Add more olive oil if needed (a little at  time) and continue to blend until the vinaigrette is smooth. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and set aside.

4. Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions or to your taste. While the pasta cooks, season the raw cherry tomatoes with salt. 

5.  To compose the salad: Drain the pasta and toss with the vinaigrette. Let the pasta cool until just warm, then toss in the remaining blistered tomatoes, the raw tomatoes and their juices, the basil, mint, pine nuts, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more red pepper flakes, olive oil, or pine nuts as needed.


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