Poor Man’s Pasta Ponza

I was really flying without a net tonight.  I started out trying to recreate Giada deLaurentis’s recipe for Pasta Ponza, but I didn’t have some of the ingredients and I didn’t want to put the time into some of the steps, so I improvised and came up with my own version of the dish that is so far from the original that it doesn’t really deserve to be called by the same name.  I think of it more as spaghetti with fast roasted tomatoes and a breadcrumb sauce.  Call it what you will, we called it a delicious dinner.  It came together in a snap and didn’t heat up the kitchen, so it’s perfect for a weeknight in the summer.

About 8 oz spaghetti or similar pasta.  I used whole wheat angel hair pasta

About 3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered.  I tossed in some whole tomatoes chopped to the same size as the quartered cherry tomatoes

A healthy drizzle of olive oil

A healthy pinch of salt

A healthy pinch of sugar

2-3 cloves of finely diced garlic

About a cup of seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

About a cup of grated Parmesan cheese

About 10 basil leaves, chiffonade

Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water.  Before you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water.  Don’t forget!  It’s important.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, garlic and sugar on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place the tomatoes under the broiler for about 2 minutes at a time.  After each cooking time, remove the pan and stir the tomatoes.  It will take 4-6 minutes, but the tomatoes are done when they are soft, the skins are starting to separate but not blacken, and the juices are starting to run.

Return the cooked pasta and 1 c reserved cooking liquid to the pot.  Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and cooked tomatoes.  Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sauce thickens (about 1-2 minutes).  Sprinkle the top with the chiffonade of basil and some fresh black pepper.

This dish was a big hit all the way around – the picture above is of my toddler’s portion.  Yes, it looks like a lot, but she’s really into feeding herself these days so more than half ended up on the floor, in the dog, in her hair, or in some other receptacle other than her stomach.

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