Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pasta with Bread Crumbs and Herbed Tomatoes

I had more than a passing encounter with Mother Hubbard's dilemma today. I've been madly preparing for an extended trip to the coast and dinner time rolled around with packed suitcases but nothing more for dinner than a defrosted steak that desperately needed something to keep it company on the plate. The cupboard was, indeed, nearly bare and I wasn't up to a last-minute grocery shop. It was obviously going to be a make-do supper. That occasionally happens here, and, when it does, I have a handful of recipes that I fall back on. This is one of them. I make this dish once or twice a year when I have stale bread and ripe tomatoes that must be used. It's not my favorite recipe, but it is serviceable and makes a really nice accompaniment to plain grilled meat or chicken.I routinely use stale bread to make crumbs and usually have a supply in the pantry. Because I have them in ready status it takes only minutes for me to make this pasta. If you are going to make crumbs just for the pasta, it will take about an hour for them to properly dry and toast, so plan your time accordingly. I've included instructions for preparing crumbs in today's recipe. If you make the recipe from start to finish you will need a couple of hours to put everything together. An easy shortcut is the use of panko bread crumbs. If you use a gentle hand, panko has enough substance to stand in for homemade crumbs. If you use them, you would begin with step 3 in the recipe below. This is really easy to make, and, if ever you are in need of a quick go-with, you might want to try this pasta. Here's the recipe.

Pasta With Bread Crumbs and Herbed Tomatoes


1/2 large loaf country-style bread, crust removed

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves, chopped

6 large, ripe, Roma tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Balsamic or red wine vinegar to taste (optional)

12-ounces dried fusilli or other short tubular pasta


1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

2) Cut bread into pieces. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process bread, in batches, to coarse crumbs. There will be about 3 cups of crumbs. Spread in a shallow baking tray and toast in the oven for 1 hour, or until dry and crisp but not brown.

3) In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, or until crumbs are golden. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

4) In a glass or ceramic bowl, combine tomatoes and chopped herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar to intensify flavor of the tomatoes, if you desire.

5) In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta per package directions until al dente. Drain well.

6) Transfer pasta to a warm, shallow serving bowl. Toss with reserved 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour tomatoes over top and toss to combine. Add bread crumbs and toss again. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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