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Lidia’s Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

  • August 29, 2011

This is a delayed blog post due to Hurricane Irene, which has left me and most of Princeton without power. I’m likely to be without power for a while yet (basement waters are receding thankfully), but I’ve latched onto wifi here at Princeton University, which had power even during the hurricane. (I guess a $14 billion endowment helps buy extra generators – or maybe a private power plant.) I wanted to post this recipe and get on board with other bloggers who posted last week in tribute to Lidia Bastianich, one of the “50 Women Game Changers In Food.” Read below for details.

I love my family, don’t get me wrong — but in my next life, I want to come back as the daughter of Lidia Bastianich – or maybe daughter-in-law. Or even the dog. I’ll bet the family canine eats as well as the humans in that household. Aside from her recipes, which are all winners, there’s something about Lidia that just makes you feel at home. I love watching her show, not only for the great food she creates,and the gorgeous Italian locales, but also for the warm family atmosphere that exudes in her home kitchen. She genuinely loves what she’s doing, she loves her family (Oh those adorable grandchildren, and that charming mother of hers!) and she loves her viewers. Having met her, her son, daughter and her mom on several occasions, I can tell you she is just as wonderful in person as she is on television.

I’ve interviewed her in the past, and you can find those posts here and here. They’ll give you a little more insight into the woman from Istria who turned her creative cooking talents into an empire – restaurants in New York, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, award-winning television shows and numerous cookbooks, with a new one  – Lidia’s Italy in America – coming out this fall.


Oh, and let’s not forget her line of cooking products and kitchenware, and that she opened the Italian food emporium Eataly, along with Mario Batali and her son Joe.

I’ve eaten at all her New York City restaurants, starting from when she and her son Joe ran Frico Bar, at Ninth Ave. and 43rd Street. When it closed in 1999, I mourned the loss of Frico Bar, where you could always find the eponymous Friulian dish made with montasio cheese. But when Esca opened in the same spot, (owned by Lidia, her son and Mario Batali), I fell in love again with the seafood menu there too. From the casual Becco with its trio of pastas, to the more formal Felidia, to the uber elegant and delectable Del Posto, Lidia’s restaurants are among my favorite anywhere in the world.

A fellow blogger, Mary of “One Perfect Bite” started a series called “50 Women Game Changers in Food,” highlighting women who have been influential in the food industry. I haven’t been participating, but when I saw that my favorite chef was featured this week, there was no holding me back. The only problem was deciding which of her recipes to make.

I went to the garden for inspiration yesterday and picked a slew of plum tomatoes ahead of Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit us in Central Jersey tonight. While Lidia’s recipe calls for baking the tomatoes in the oven, I roasted mine on the grill, using a disposable aluminum pan. The longer and slower they cook, the more concentrated the flavor, and the bread crumb topping does indeed get crispy even on the grill. Keep it at a low temperature, or you’re likely to burn the bottoms of the tomatoes. The tomatoes alone make a delicious side dish, but added to the pasta, you’ve got a great meal. Just add a green salad.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes
Recipe from Lidia’s Italy   serves 6    printable recipe here
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs — coarsely crushed
2 tablespoons capers — drained and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil — chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/3 cups grated Pecorino Romano (or parmigiano)
10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
1 1/2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes
2 plump garlic cloves — sliced
1 pound long fusilli — fusilli lunghi (or other pasta)

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375º

Put the bread crumbs in a medium-sized bowl and mix the chopped capers, 1 tablespoon of chopped basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the red pepper flakes, oregano and 1/3 cup grated cheese. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the crumbs tossing to moisten and mix thoroughly

Rinse and dry the tomatoes and slice them in half lengthwise. Oil the baking sheet lightly with a bit of the olive oil, working over the bowl of bread crumbs, cover the cut side of each tomato half with a layer of crumb mixture. Compress the crumbs lightly so they stay on and set the tomato crumbs up on the baking sheet. Separate tomatoes as much as possible on the sheet, so all sides are exposed to the heat, drizzle with more olive oil and place in oven.

Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil in small bowl, drop in garlic slice and let steep–you’ll use the infused oil for dressing the pasta.

Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes until the crumbs are nicely browned and the halves are slightly shriveled. Remove sheet from the oven and let tomatoes cool for 15 minutes or so, then slice each one lengthwise, making two narrow wedges, or 3 or 4 if tomatoes are very large.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in 6 quarts of salted water until al dente. Heat a pasta serving bowl with a cup or so of boiling pasta water and drain. Lift pasta out with tongs, when cooked to your liking, and place in warm bowl.

Immediately scatter with garlic-infused oil and garlic slices and toss well, top with tomato wedges and serve with additional chopped basil and grated cheese.

The following bloggers are also paying tribute to Lidia Bastianich, so stop by and pay them a visit too.

Val – More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne – Eats Well With Others
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan – The Spice Garden
Claudia – A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather – girlichef
Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette – Healthy Living
April – Abby Sweets 
Katie – Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary – One Perfect Bite
Kathleen –Bake Away with Me
Viola – The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue – The View from Great Island
Barbara – Movable Feasts
Kathleen – Gonna Want Seconds
Amy – Beloved Green
Jeanette – Healthy Living