Sometimes I plan dinners based on cravings or recipes I've found, but some dinners are born out of necessity. Like I have an ingredient that I need to use before it goes bad. I bought some mascarpone for a Project Pastry Queen recipe that I never made, and I had some grape tomatoes that were about to turn as well. I actually wasn't sure if I wanted to use the mascarpone in a sweet or savory application, but when I found this recipe for pasta with mascarpone and roasted grape tomatoes, I knew it was meant to be.
This is a really simple dinner. Grape tomatoes are halved, roasted, then tossed with cooked shells, mascarpone cheese, and chives. The dish is then topped with some parmesan and baked briefly. This is truly one of those dihes where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I love the flavor of roasted tomatoes - rich and sweet, and they pair perfectly with the rich and creamy mascarpone. I made a few minor tweaks and additions, but the nice thing about this recipe is that it is open to so many adaptations: add some Italian sausage, try out different herbs, add some extra veggies... the possibilities are endless. I served this with roasted asparagus and bread, and we enjoyed a lovely spring meal.
Pasta with Mascarpone and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Gourmet, February 2004
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
- 1 lb pasta shapes, such as shells
- 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 cup)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
Toss the tomatoes and garlic with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roast until slightly plumped, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time. Remove the garlic cloves and mince.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water, until just shy of al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Transfer to a large bowl.
Mix the pasta with the mascarpone, stirring until melted. Add the cooking water, a little at a time, until the sauce looks thinned but not watery. Stir in the wine, red pepper flakes, garlic, tomatoes, half the Parmesan cheese, 3 Tbs of the chives, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Lightly grease 6 individual gratin dishes, or a 9x13 baking dish. Divide the pasta evenly among the dishes, then top with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake 15-20 minutes, until the pasta is golden and bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining chives and serve.