Easy Dinner Ideas

Summer is slipping away. The last week of August proved to be a very busy one for me. I’m not sure how that even happened, but it was a non-stop ride right up through Friday night. All of a sudden it’s Labor Day weekend and I needed an easy dinner idea. We had plans with friends for nearly a month and a half for dinner and I was tossed up about the side dish. (Not a typical occurrence for me!)

I wanted to make a pasta side dish and had every intention of making a simple marinara with my gorgeous San Marzano tomatoes from Hilltop Hanover, but suddenly it was 3:00 and our guests would be arriving at 6:30. Plan B was set into motion.

More heirlooms from Hilltop Hanover Farm were sitting on the windowsill. Last week I made chilled tomato soup and I wanted to be able to use these stunning tomatoes again. Generally the idea for this application comes from a Giada television segment I watched years ago. I tried to find the actual link on line, but it seems to be long gone. I’ve been doing essentially the same version of her original with a few modifications to make it my own.

Cut up your tomatoes, whatever they may be. She used plum tomatoes which hold up well. I prefer the softer variety as they end up falling apart and melting a little. Lemon juice and zest give the dish brightness. I like to add something green for color. You can use what you have on hand: spinach, kale, chard .. it all works. Since I had a bunch of spicy arugula from my farm share this week, that is what I used. I also wanted a little onion to complete the overall flavor. Again, you have many choices here: chives, shallot or red onion will work. Although, I would suggest getting a very small dice on the red onion so it softens a little. You want to taste the onion, but under the tomatoes, not competing with them. I decided on a few scallions from the share.

While your pasta is cooking cut everything up.  Tomatoes first in the bowl seasoned with salt and pepper. Then add the bottoms of the arugula and scallion along with the lemon. Scoop the pasta right from the pot and place it directly over the tomato bowl, drizzle with olive oil and let it sit for about five minutes.

Add the arugula leaves, scallion tops and basil. Mix well and let the flavors do their magic together.

As I remember, the original used ricotta salata which is simply divine with this dish. I had feta on hand so that is what I used. Not everyone is a fan, so if you are doing this for a crowd you can leave the cheese on the side and people can add as they desire.

This is another great dish to use up your summer tomatoes that will take honestly no longer than 30 minutes to prepare. It’s perfect for the buffet or a simple mid-week dinner and tastes even better the next day!

Buon appetito!

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
Makes 6 – 8 main course servings and can stretch to 12 as a buffet side dish

1 lb. box of your favorite pasta shape
Kosher salt
2 lbs. of tomatoes, cored and cut into 2″ chunks
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of arugula, or any green of your choice, about 3 cups chopped, stems separated
3-4 scallions, sliced thinly, about 1 cup total, white parts separated
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced
1/2 – 1 cup of feta or ricotta salata crumbled

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to the box instructions.

2. Place the tomatoes in a large heat-proof bowl and season with salt, pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. This would be the time to use your better oil – so the tomatoes really shine.

3. Sprinkle the thinly sliced stems of the arugula and the white part of the scallions over the top of the tomatoes. Add the lemon zest and juice next and set aside.

4. When the pasta is done simply scoop it right from the pot, using a sieve to drain off the water, directly into the bowl. Drizzle the pasta with a little olive oil and set it aside for five minutes. The heat will soften the green stems and tomatoes.

5. Gently mix everything together adding in the arugula leaves, scallion tops and half of the basil. You can add in the cheese now, or just keep it on the side. Once you get the pasta plated add the remaining basil on top as garnish.



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