Slow Roasted Tomato Basil Spaghetti

I’ve always wanted to be in an infomercial. In fact, I’ve always wanted to host an infomercial. I’d like to be one of those women with the mousy hair and button down shirts that follows the ‘chef’ around as he whips up creations with his latest gadget, exclaiming, ‘Oooh! My kids would go crazy for those peanut butter flapjacks!’ or, ‘This is the BEST ham-and- mushroom-soup casserole I have EVER tasted!’ I’d even settle for being one of the members of the audience that enthusiastically nods on cue or murmurs to my neighbour in commiseration about how hard it is to get the omelet out of the pan.

The energy level of the infomercial has always amazed me. How can they possibly muster that level of fake excitement over a sandwich maker or a food dehydrator? Have they ever walked outside? Seen a thunderstorm? Had a baby? There are plenty of things in life that require that level of excitement, but a panini press isn’t one of them.

The one kitchen tool that I would happily get that enthusiastic about, though, is the oven. ‘Well, yes,’ you say, ‘I’m sure people were excited about it…200 years ago.’ But see, my love affair with the oven is fairly recent. Up until a few years ago, I cooked everything on the stove. For some reason, the oven intimidated me – I liked things I could stir and watch constantly, like a curry or a soup or a scrambled egg.

Then I discovered roasting and my whole life changed. This is the part of the infomercial where I would get up from the audience, grab the mic and say, “Hi, I’m Maureen, a dental hygienist from Ohio, and I’ve got to say, Ron, your invention of the oven has changed my life! Just a half hour in the oven, and my vegetables are bursting with flavour! My fruits are caramelized and golden! Now my husband loves my cooking!”

And it’s true. It all began by throwing some sad-looking February tomatoes in the oven. I wasn’t expecting much, but I didn’t have anything else in the pantry, so what the hell, right? Chop up some tomatoes, a squirt of olive oil, a pool of balsamic, some salt and pepper. Whatever.

Oh, my.

I can confidently say that those were the best tomatoes I have ever had. Meltingly spicy and sweet at the same time, velvety smooth and swimming in their own sauce. All I had to do was ladle them over pasta and sprinkle some basil and some goat cheese on top. They formed a lovely rose sauce with the cheese, and with a glass of Pinot, they were the perfect escape from a February day. Oven, you have won me over.

Now I make that recipe a few times a month, winter or summer. It is the easiest recipe I have, but somehow it always ends up elegant and absolutely bursting with flavour. This will become your go-to recipe for the summer, or your money back (shipping and handling not included.)

Slow Roasted Tomato Basil Spaghetti

Adapted from this recipe.

Note: This recipe is endlessly forgiving. Throw in cumin powder instead of the coriander powder, swap in coriander leaves for the basil; it will still taste delicious.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (340 g) spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil, approx
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 4 -5 medium tomatoes (still on the vine), cut into 1” chunks (I cut them in half, and then each half into quarters) (about 1 lb/500 g)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp dried coriander powder (I like mine more heavily spiced)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large pinch hot pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In 13- x 9-inch metal cake pan or roasting pan, toss together tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, coriander powder, salt and hot pepper flakes. Roast in oven until tomatoes have collapsed and have released their juice, about 30 – 40 minutes. Make sure to take them out every 10 minutes or so and give them a good stir so the juices don’t burn. 

When tomatoes are almost done, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain spaghetti. Add the tomatoes to the pot and mix it up. Plate and sprinkle generously with goat cheese and basil.

Serves 4 (though A. and I usually seem to gobble it up greedily in one sitting.)

Notes on changes/substitutions:

  • If you don’t have a cake pan or a roasting pan, you can use a rimmed cookie sheet – just make sure you stir the tomatoes around frequently as the sauce will burn more easily in a shallow pan.
  • The longer you roast the tomatoes at a lower heat, the more luscious they will become. If I have nothing to do on lazy Sunday, I will set the oven at 200 and let it go for four hours. The tomatoes transform into syrupy caramelized manna and the house will smell like a Tuscan restaurant. Sometimes I even preheat the oven to 350, turn it off and leave the tomatoes inside as I run errands – that way I can come home to the perfect dinner.
  • If your baby, like mine, loves flavour, give these tomatoes a whirl in the blender and they make the perfect baby food (just leave out the red pepper flakes.)
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