Pesto Pasta Salad with Slow Roasted Tomatoes

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Hello, friends!  Fall has come to Seattle in all its glory, and I find myself invigorated by the crisp, sunny days, fire-colored trees, early sunsets, and ample opportunity to pumpkin spice just about everything (not sorry… well, ok, a little bit sorry.)  Still, there are pieces of summer that seem to be holding on tight – as evidenced by the (still!) exploding tomato plants in my backyard – and I’m fine with that, too.

September always feels a bit in-between-ish to me – the sun hasn’t yet given way to the dark, misty drizzle of true Seattle winter, but days are shorter, new routines are starting, and everyone seems to be hunkering down for the season – which, at least in my case, means getting back into the kitchen.  It feels time to stock the freezer with easy meals (this and this come to mind), time to bake too many cookies (I’ve got my eyes on these ones, next), that first can of pumpkin to use up (always a good choice), and all those tomatoes!  They want to be roasted.

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A big batch of puckered, candy-sweet, roasted tomatoes can (should!) be covered with olive oil and stored in the fridge, to use in myriad forms of deliciousness – eaten straight up, smushed over a hunk of crusty bread, maybe, or tossed into a frittata or scrambled eggs, layered in a veggie lasagna, or thrown into a quick pasta, either hot or cold.  Maybe with fresh pesto, tangy olives, creamy cheese and sharp arugula?  Yes, yes, yes and yes.  As the air cools and days shorten around us, we’ll be happy to have these sweet, juicy remnants of summer at our fingertips.

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Pesto Pasta Salad with Slow Roasted Tomatoes

I’ve included instructions to make your own pesto and slow-roasted tomatoes, but if you don’t have the time (or you’d just rather not, no shame), feel free to use store-bought pesto and jarred, sun-dried tomatoes in oil instead.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb dry pasta (I like bowties)
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh baby arugula
  • 1 1/2 cups basil pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup chopped olives
  • 1 cup slow roasted cherry tomatoes (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup mini fresh mozzarella balls (sometimes called “pearls” or “ciliegine”), drained
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For pesto:

  • 2 cups (packed) fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts or almonds
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

For slow-roasted tomatoes:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • olive oil
  • big pinch kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

If you have all the ingredients ready, making the pasta salad is a snap: cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions, until just done.  Drain.

While the pasta cooks, place the arugula in a large bowl.  Once drained, add the warm pasta to the arugula.  Add the pesto, olives and roasted tomatoes, and toss to coat.  Let the pasta cool slightly before adding the mozzarella, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pasta salad can be served just warm or refrigerated and served cold or at room temperature.

To make the pesto:

Combine the basil, nuts and parmesan cheese in a high speed blender or food processor.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Stream in the olive oil, blending on high speed, until the pesto is smooth and emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator (I like to cover the top with some olive oil to preserve the color) for about a week.

To make the slow-roasted tomatoes:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, on the prepared pan and drizzle them lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a small pinch each of salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven for about 3 hours, until quite dry and puckered but still slightly soft.

Let the tomatoes cool, then either use immediately or store them, covered in olive oil, in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

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