You must make this. I made it up myself and it is awesome. Like most everything I cook, it’s super simple. There are components, which are comprised of steps, but those are very easy. You may need to consider the timing, but the tomatoes can be refrigerated for days and pesto improves as the flavors meld. This is a perfect early spring supper, for sad, supermarket tomatoes are greatly improved from the slow roasting and arugula is a delightful and somewhat unexpected substitute while we await our basil. My ingenious friend M, who makes living in a small fishing village in Mexico look effortless and amazing, inspired this dinner. I added the bacon. Not because I am that way about bacon. But because it was the right thing to do. Men, women, children and dogs will all adore this savory combination. And in turn they will love you more. This is how I did it. Follow along.
A brief explanation:
Start the tomatoes first. While they are languishing slow and low, whir up the pesto and pop that in the fridge. I cooked the bacon just before the pasta finished, but you could certainly do that ahead also. There is a little prep involved, but it’s all very mindless and meditative. And the result is wonderful and could be served immediately and hot, chilled or room temperature. Ideal for a party. Serves 4*.
For the tomatoes:
- 4 fat tomatoes
- Olive oil
For the arugula pesto:
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 heaping tablespoon pine nuts
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 of a lemon
- 1/2 lb bacon, skillet-fried until not quite crisp, then drained on a paper towel and broken into pieces
- 1/3 of a ball of fresh mozarella, sliced into matchsticks
- 7 or 8 big basil leaves, chiffonaded
- handful of red pepper flakes
- spritz of balsamic vinegar
Slice tomatoes into 6 pieces and place them, skin-side down on a baking sheet, then drizzle olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 225 for 3 hours, or more, until sweet and withered. Make the pesto, by spinning the arugula, parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
I combined the tomatoes, pesto and garnishes in a large bowl, while I fried the bacon and boiled water for pasta. At Aurora Provisions I found a macaroni called Strozzapreti – “priest choker” – which turned out to be the ideal shape for this dish. Seek it out. Seriously. I added the bacon and some of the starchy liquid (because I am a Food Network zombie), drained the cooked pasta and added it hot to the other ingredients, tossed so the mozzarella became melty and the bacon nearly dissolved and disappeared.
*I ate the leftovers standing in front of the fridge at midnight. I suspect some of you will too. Any questions?