6 plum tomatoes - $2.59
1 zucchini - $0.47
1 yellow squash - $1.04 1 bunch parsley - $0.69 1/2 pound dry spaghetti - $0.65
Pantry items: Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, garlic, white sugar
Total cost: $5.44
In cookbooks, as in Harlequin romances, there are one-night stands and there are keepers.
Some recipes call to you from the page, talking sweet and promising spice. But in the cold light of day, your kitchen a shambles, you begin to wonder if you really have time for this kind of relationship. (You don't.)
Other recipes aren't so obviously seductive, but are compatible with the way you already cook. Quick to get under your skin, they stay with you and grow with you. Your friends approve.
I'm starting to nauseate myself with my own metaphor, so I'll just get to the point: The pomodori al forno served at Seattle's Café Lago, recipe transcribed and exalted by Molly Wizenberg, is a keeper. I've made the slow-roasted tomato dish so many times in the last six months that it feels like, as the saying goes, I've known it all my life.
At first, I served the tender, sweet tomatoes just as the restaurant does, on baguette rounds smeared with aged goat's cheese. Then I started pouring the leftover olive oil, swirling with garlic and parsley, over spaghetti or angel's hair. The impromptu aglio e olio was so good that I took to skipping the bread and cheese altogether, tossing the tomatoes and their ruddy oil straight into hot pasta. The barely solid flesh collapses easily into the noodles, bringing welcome moisture and acidity to the classic Italian preparation.
To make the dish a little more colorful and quite a bit more substantial, I've added slices of grilled green and yellow squash, now at their sweetest and cheapest. The recipe will feed two, with enough vegetables left over for a really glorious sandwich.
Spaghetti all'Aglio e Olio with Marinated Summer Vegetables
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 plum (Roma) tomatoes, stem ends removed, halved lengthwise and seeded
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
- 1-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small zucchini, cut on the bias in 1/3-inch slices
- 1 small yellow squash, cut on the bias in 1/3-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral-flavored oil
- Salted water for boiling
- 1/2 pound dry spaghetti or other pasta
Preheat oven to 250°F. Pour half of the extra virgin olive oil into a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Place tomatoes in dish cut side up.
Pour remaining oil over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 1 hour. Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour longer. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, 15-45 minutes longer, depending on ripeness of tomatoes.
Transfer tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the oil to a large bowl, reserving the remaining oil for another use. Sprinkle garlic and parsley over tomatoes and let steep until tomatoes are room temperature. (Can be done and refrigerated up to five days ahead. Bring up to room temperature before using.)
While the tomatoes are resting at room temperature, place yellow and green squash slices in a large mixing bowl. Add canola oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to coat.
Heat a large saute or grill pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, arrange squash slices in pan in a single layer and cook for two minutes on each side or until well-browned. Remove and transfer to the bowl containing the tomatoes, coating the slices in oil. Repeat with remaining squash.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and immediately toss with tomato, squash and olive oil mixture. If it seems a little dry, add some of the reserved oil until pasta is uniformly glossy. Serve hot or cooled to room temperature.