Last week, while driving home from a long weekend away at a cottage, I spotted a stand along the road with fresh corn and other veggies. I had already been driving for 4 hours (bruuuutal traffic) and I had another hour to go. If I had any energy left to make dinner, it needed to be easy. I was eyeing the corn but the thought of husking corn seemed like too much. Sweet, sun-kissed, perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes were sitting pretty on the table in a little rainbow of colours — now I knew what I was going to make.
To be sure, a pasta meal can be perceived as a lazy fallback. But for me, an unfussy, super quick dinner, will almost always start with pasta. I have made the tomato and shallot confit from Ottolenghi’s Simple: A Cookbook many times for his baked rice recipe. It is delicious. However, every time I made the confit I thought about how fantastic it would be with pasta. Voila, summer pasta with tomato and shallot confit would be dinner.
Here is what I did. I quickly rinsed the tomatoes, smashed some garlic cloves, chopped a few shallots and snipped some thyme sprigs from the backyard. Tossed everything into a pan, poured a few glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper and threw it into a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. Sounds like a little time consuming, but with the exception of one quick stir halfway through, the confit process is completely hands off.
While the tomatoes baked and shriveled into stewy delicousness, I had time to unpack, start the pasta water, and pour a glass of rosé. Yes, the pasta still had to cook. However, once the pasta was ready, all there was left to do was toss it with the tomato confit, add some shaved pecorino (Reggiano is fine) and lots of torn basil. It was rejuvenating.
WHAT IS CONFIT
Confit refers to any food that has been slow cooked in olive oil or sugar syrup to be preserved. Duck is a favourite to confit in France. It is a brilliant technique that adds a depth of flavour and complexity to the ingredient you use. Vegetables such as tomatoes, garlic, and shallots also benefit from this method.
Admittedly, there is a lot of olive oil used here. However, I implore you to be generous with the olive oil and treat the leftover like gold. It is this luxurious, flavoured-infused, oil that will enhance any and every dish you spoon it over.
For this recipe, I confit cherry tomatoes, garlic and shallots together. The tomatoes lose their acidity and become wrinkled, soft and sweeter than candy. Garlic’s sharp potency becomes muted and gains a succulent, perfum-y quality that I could smear on everything. Ditto for the shallots.
HOW TO UTILIZE TOMATO AND SHALLOT CONFIT
This tomato and shallot confit makes just about everything taste better. Use the confit spooned over ricotta crostinis, grilled meat, vegetables, fish, and even salads. I absolutely loved it tossed with spaghetti — the oily tomato broth clings to the noodles, the tomatoes, sweet and delicate, are little pearls of goodness peeking through the pasta.
If you have leftover tomato confit, store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks. If you wish, you can even blitz it into a sauce. Occasionally, I will do this for my middle son who cannot stand tomatoes – blasphemy, I know. However, he eats every other food on the planet so I can’t complain. And let me tell you, that blitzed sauce is just as heavenly.
This summer pasta with tomato and shallot confit is a wonderful reminder that that good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Minimal ingredients and seriously good simplicity at its best. Dear readers, I hope you give it a try.
LIKE PASTA? TRY THIS:
Kale Sauce Pasta with Burrata and Peas
Summer Pasta with Tomato and Shallot Confit
- 3 pints cherry tomatoes mixed colours if possible
- 4 large garlic cloves crushed and peeled
- 5 shallots cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles or any dried pasta
- Handful torn basil leaves
- 1/4 cup grated or shaved pecorino cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- Red pepper flakes for finishing (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- In an 8-by-12-inch casserole dish, toss together tomatoes, garlic, shallots,1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Pour the olive oil over everything, then toss to combine. Top with thyme sprigs.
- Bake until the vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes, stirring once during cooking.
- While the tomatoes are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, or according to package instructions. Drain and place cooked pasta in a large bowl and add a few cups of tomato and shallot confit with the juices, tossing to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with a little more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Place the remaining tomato confit in a separate bowl.
- To serve, stir in the basil, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (if using) and serve right away, passing additional tomato and shallot confit* and pecorino, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, at the table.
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