Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tomato Basil Pasta

This recipe serves two purposes: my need for a recipe using fresh tomatoes, and my need for a recipe using fresh basil. Canned tomato products serve a great purpose, and I do plan on canning many of my own this summer, but I adore fresh tomatoes and would love to have uses for them other than on sandwiches and salads or in guacamole or salsa. I am producing a bumper crop of fresh basil and can't use it fast enough, so don't be surprised to see some basil-laden recipes coming up!

I used gluten free pasta, but if that is not a concern for you, your cost can be even lower than mine (though I am more than happy where I am at). I can get a 13 oz box of whole wheat pasta for $1.22, which would make the cost of the pasta used in this recipe only $.61, $2.84 for four servings, and only $.71 per serving! Larger tomatoes are most often cheaper than the grape and cherry tomatoes, and those would work fine chopped in this recipe. I did get the basil from my backyard, making it a freebie, but if you don't have access to fresh basil or would rather not spend the money on it, dried will work as well. If you enjoy cooking with fresh herbs but don't want to plant a large pot outdoors, a couple of small pots on your kitchen window sill will be very little work and give you fresh herbs year-round. :) My local garden center has most of their seedlings on markdown right now, so I could get a ready-to-use basil plant for less than $2.00.

I love this dish because it is so simple yet so flavorful. I resisted the urge to add zucchini, bell peppers, onion, asparagus or any other of the veggies I like to eat with pasta and kept the focus on the super sweet tomatoes. One thing I have really noticed since shopping for produce at the farmers market, buying organic produce when I can and growing some of my own--the flavor is so much more intense. I am sure my husband thinks I have lost it when I can't stop exclaiming, "this tomato tastes so tomato-y" or "this pepper tastes so much more like a pepper!" Cooking and eating healthfully doesn't have to be complicated, the fresh flavors of simple ingredients can really carry a dish. It doesn't have to take all day either--in just a couple minutes more than it takes to boil pasta, you can throw together this beautiful dish!

Tomato Basil Pasta

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz dry pasta
6 leaves fresh basil, torn or chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Begin preparing pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet (big enough to hold the finished pasta), heat olive oil and garlic over low/medium low heat. You do not want the garlic to brown, so back off on the heat if it begins to do so.

Step 2: Right before pasta is finished cooking, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper to the oil and garlic. Before draining pasta, remember to reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add pasta and pasta water to the tomato mixture, stir and cook 2-3 minutes, just until tomatoes are barely warm.


Pasta (quinoa/gluten free): $3.49/8 oz package, used 3/4 = $2.62
Tomatoes: On sale for $2.99/pint, used 3/4 = $2.24

Total Cost: $4.86
Four Servings: $1.22 per serving

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