A Summer Pasta Dish


Long distance runner friends, in New York for a half-marathon and in need of a carb-loading meal, were the reason why I was cooking spaghetti last Saturday night. At the farmers market early that morning I'd been seduced by all the best of the summer produce, including the huge bunches of herbs, the fresh, still juicy garlic, and pints and pints of cherry tomatoes. The dish I ended up serving evolved as I cooked, prompted by different recipes we've run in Gourmet. My initial idea was to do something along the lines of Deborah Madison's "Spaghetti with a Handful of Herbs," a recipe she shared with Gourmet from her book, The Savory Way. I love it because it's loose—you chop up a variety of herbs, whatever you have on hand, and toss them with the pasta, lubricating the mixture with some oil and butter. But how could I resist a beautiful head of Rocambole garlic that was sitting on my counter? Spaghetti with Garlic, a.k.a. aglio olio, is a classic. Garlic and herbs? A beautiful match. So I peeled the cloves, sliced them as thinly and evenly as possible, then slowly fried them in olive oil to pale golden crispness. The intoxicatingly toasty aroma filled the apartment; our guests were looking happy.

I could have stopped there, but as the pasta was cooking, I remembered the cherry tomatoes, which were hidden behind the herbs. The tomatoes were so perfectly ripe it seemed a shame not to include them. I flashed on how good the Pasta with Arugula Purée and Cherry Tomato Sauce was from April 06. In that recipe, the cherry tomatoes were cooked separately on top of the stove until they broke down and then were spooned over the arugula-sauced pasta. So I quickly cranked up the heat under my cast iron skillet, slicked it with oil, then tossed in the cherry tomatoes and a spray of salt. I immediately covered the skillet with another pan lid (to keep the smoke alarm from going off) and pan-roasted those babies, shaking the skillet once or twice, until their skins split open and they gave up some of their juice. Instead of dumping them on the pasta, though, I slid the tomatoes into a separate bowl to serve on the side, along with a bowl of my favorite accompaniment, toasted crumbs. It was a huge hit. So simple, so obvious, really, I wondered why I'd never thought of it before: Herbs, garlic, and tomatoes. A time-honored combination, just put together in a slightly different way. Carb-loading never tasted so good.

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