Do you ever hit a road block when you're trying to figure out what to make for dinner? It happens to me on weeknights here and there, but it hardly ever happens when I know in advance that people are coming over. In fact, I get really excited about the prospect of cooking for others and have so many recipes I want to make that I have to reign it in. Yesterday, however, was totally different. I must have flipped through 15 or so cookbooks, spent a good hour on Foodgawker, yet nothing grabbed me. We finally decided to hit the Pasadena Farmer's Market and hoped inspiration would hit while we checked out the produce.
That last idea worked, and as I spied some gorgeous cherry tomatoes that were as sweet as candy, a variety of spring onions and beautiful green watercress, everything started clicking in my head and I came up with this pasta dish that I think will make it into our regular rotation. I'll post the recipe below- there are a lot of steps, but they are all easy and you can make it in advance.
In addition to the pasta, we had arugula and watercress salad topped with fried oyster mushrooms. I only bought a few of the mushrooms so I wanted to stretch them. After dredging in egg and a combination of rice flour and cornstarch, I quickly fried them in canola oil until they resembled calamari.
We also bought these pencil thin asparagus which I blanched, chilled in an ice bath, then layered on top of paper thin prosciutto and drizzled with a simple dressing of Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil and champagne vinegar.
Hope you'll get a chance to try this pasta, or come up with your own inspired by whatever your local Farmer's Market has each week!
Farmer's Market Pasta
12-15 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup olive oil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 tubs of sweet cherry tomatoes
A few sprigs of thyme
2 links uncooked sweet or hot Italian sausage, removed from casing (turkey sausage will work too, or you can leave out the meat completely to make it vegetarian)
5 spring onions, sliced thin (regular onions will work too)
Corn cut from 2 large ears of corn
1/2 cup grated percorino romano
A good handful of fresh basil, julienned
A good handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 1/4 pound pasta- I used fusilli avellinesi, but you could use penne or spaghetti
Preheat oven to 350.
Put the garlic cloves into an oven proof container with a lid, and pour olive oil into the container until the cloves are completely covered. Add the balsamic, cover with the lid and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes- you want the garlic to be tender, not crispy. Take the cloves out of the oil and drain; set aside. Save the garlic oil.
Halve the cherry tomatoes layer in a baking dish. Drizzle with some of the garlic oil and sprinkle some thyme leaves over the top. Season with salt and pepper, roast in the oven for about an hour until the tomatoes have cooked down. You still want some of the liquid so don't over-roast them.
In a large pan, saute the sausage until broken down and cooked through; remove from pan and set aside. Add a bit of the garlic oil to the pan and add the spring onions and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes until they are caramelized. Remove from pan. Add a bit more of the garlic oil to the pan and saute the corn until tender.
Add the caramelized onions and sausage back into the pan with the corn, then add the roasted tomatoes and their juices into the pan as well. Take the roasted garlic cloves (which should be cool by now) and slice each into about 2 or 3 pieces- you want chunks but not whole cloves. Add those into the pan as well and stir (at this point you can turn the heat off and save it until your pasta is cooked).
Boil your pasta according to package directions, making sure you season your pasta water with LOTS of salt. Once your pasta is al dente, drain it but save a bit of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick and you need to thin it out a bit. Add the pasta into the pan, toss to coat the pasta very well, then stir in the pecorino, basil and parsley. Adjust seasoning as necessary and serve piping hot.
Serve with more pecorino romano to garnish.