Kate O’Mahoney talks of her favourite dish from her life when she needed an easy and warm home-cooked meal, burst cherry tomato linguine.
As the Winter evenings are well and truly upon us, I cannot help but think back to this time last year, when a simple dish involving a special, but more importantly, a free ingredient, helped give me the comfort I needed.
Imagine this. It is a Sunday night in the middle of November and you have just gotten the 145 bus back to UCD from Heuston. You’re tired, cold, stressed and worst of all: hungry. The fridge and cupboards are half empty, except for a packet of spaghetti and a punnet of cherry tomatoes left over from the previous week that you forgot to throw out. You’re so desperate that you search for recipes online but end up combining bits and pieces to ‘make-do’ with what you have. What I accidently came up with was a beautifully light cherry tomato pasta sauce using the magic of pasta water. Yes, the starchy left-over water transforms burst tomatoes into a velvety smooth treat!
The fridge and cupboards are half empty, except for a packet of spaghetti and a punnet of cherry tomatoes left over from the previous week that you forgot to throw out.
1) Cook your pasta according to the packet’s instructions. Make sure you add plenty of salt to the boiling water. From making this recipe countless times since, I highly recommend linguine.
2) In the meantime, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil per person in a frying pan over a medium heat for about 2 minutes.
3) Add roughly about 200g of halved fresh cherry or plum tomatoes per person to the frying pan, with a pinch of salt.
4) Stir the tomatoes around while cooking. Add a small clove of crushed garlic to the pan (a dash of garlic granules works just as well!), along with a sprinkle of mixed Italian herbs, ground black pepper and a couple of chilli flakes (optional).
5) As the tomatoes soften, gently squeeze them with the back of a wooden spoon. They should slowly start to burst.
6) While your pasta continues to cook, reserve some of the water.
7) Keep an eye on the tomatoes. They should be continuing to burst and slightly wither.
8) As your pasta is finishing, add a small amount of the reserved water to the tomatoes. Allow it to bubble over a medium-high heat. You should start to see a sauce forming. Keep adding water until you reach your desired viscosity.
9) Drain your pasta and add it to the sauce. If required, add some more pasta water to combine.
10) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, you can add a sprinkle of parmesan.
And there you go! You have a fresh, almost Mediterranean-inspired dish using tomatoes that would otherwise go to waste, as well as water that would be poured down the drain. Although it was literally “whipped up” out of desperation, it has become one of my favourite meals. The key is using the starchy water to smoothly tie the pasta and tomatoes together to reach your desired consistency. Whenever I eat this dish, it reminds me that things are never really as bad as they seem. Pasta-la vista!