It’s both Meat Free Monday, and the start of National Vegetarian Week, so I thought a quick and easy recipe that works brilliantly for an after-work supper, and whose leftovers could be heated up for lunch next day would be in order.
The delicious – and classic – mix of fresh tomatoes, melting cheese and pasta is hardly reinventing the wheel, but roasting the tomatoes in olive oil, and using the rich cooking juices to dress the pasta takes it to the next level.
Best of all you can just slam the tray of tomatoes in the oven the moment you get in from work and twenty minutes later you’ll have the main ingredient of your supper ready to stir through the pasta.
Speaking of which, I like to use penne here, as the grooves pick up the cooking juices, but conchiglie (shells), fusilli, even spaghetti would work. After all the point is to be able to make a quick supper, not have to look further than your kitchen cupboards or the local supermarket for the ingredients.
Same goes for the cheese – whilst I adore mozzarella, and eat tons of it, I think pretty much any cheese would work here forked through the hot pasta. Crumbled feta or goats cheese, a fluffy heap of Microplane-d Parmesan, slivers of Taleggio to melt through, or even grated cheddar if that’s all you’ve got.
To serve 2. (Easily doubled).
Prep time: minimal (under five minutes). Cooking time: 30 minutes.
200gms or 7oz dried penne pasta, cooked according to packet instructions
1 packet fresh mozzarella
250grams cherry tomatoes
4 tbsps olive oil
1 large knob of butter
Maldon or Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh basil leaves to garnish
Turn the oven to 180C/350F
Halve all the cherry tomatoes, making sure to keep all the juices, tip into a shallow baking tray, or lipped sheet, and pour over the olive oil. Use your hands to make sure all the tomatoes are covered in oil. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt.
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the tomatoes have started to collapse and give off their juices.
After the tomatoes have been cooking for ten minutes, put the pasta onto boil (don’t forget to salt the water) and cook according to packet instructions.
Tear the mozzarella into just bigger than bite size pieces.
Drain the pasta, reserving a tablespoon of the cooking water.
In a large bowl, mix together pasta, cooking water, mozzarella, butter, several generous grinds of pepper and a large pinch of salt. Add the tomatoes from the roasting pan and pour over any cooking juices. Tear up the basil and add to the pasta.
Divide between two bowls and eat.