When summer finally rolls around, I’m always on the lookout for a light, cool side to whatever we’re grilling. I’m not usually a fan of pasta salad, but when Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes popped up in my Instagram feed, I stopped scrolling and went straight to the grocery store. No mayo, no Italian dressing, and no sugar. Oh my heart. And it’s just a bonus that it makes great use of all those cherry tomatoes coming out of the garden and farmer’s market. Every year we seem to think the two (now three) of us need at least 4 tomato plants each and before we know it, we’re drowning in tomatoes. Not that I’m complaining. If you are going to be buried in something, garden fresh tomatoes aren’t the worst. I digress.
The first and most important step is roasting the tomatoes, which is basically going to dehydrate them and make them super punchy and flavorful. Yes, it takes 90 minutes, and yes, it’s worth it. You’re going to wash them, cut them in half, toss them in olive oil and salt, then lay them out on a baking sheet cut side up, while the oven preheats. Then just pop them in and let them go for 90 minutes, turning them halfway to ensure they get evenly cooked.
While the tomatoes are roasting, cook one pound of your favorite pasta according to the package directions. I like bowtie or rotini for this, because it holds on to the dressing and you can usually get a box for less than a dollar. You want stop cooking this just a minute or so before it hits al dente. Not undercooked, but still firm enough to hold up to tossing in the salad. This gives the final product a really great texture.
This is optional, but I really love the flavor it gives. Warm the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, until the oil starts to simmer and the garlic starts to brown. As soon as the garlic starts to get fragrant, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
Once the olive oil/garlic mixture has cooled to room temperature, add it to the rest of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk them together.
Okay, once everything has cooled to room temperature, toss it all together in a large bowl – noodles, dressing, arugula, tomatoes, and feta. If you have patience, you can let this hang out in the fridge for an afternoon. If you’re like me, you can eat it straight out of the bowl, but it really does get better as it chills.
For the tomatoes:
2 pints of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil to coat
Salt to taste – less than a teaspoon
For the dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 pound of pasta – cooked to a firm al dente according to the package directions and cooled to room temperature
4 ounces of feta (or 8 ounces if your a feta fiend like me)
5 ounces (1 bag) of arugula (you can substitute spinach or baby spinach in a pinch, but arugula is way better if it’s available)
For the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 300. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Toss them in olive oil and salt. Lay them out on a baking sheet cut side up. Bake 90 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. When they’re done, they’ll be pretty dry to the touch and about half their original size. Pull them from the oven and let them cool to room temperature.
For the dressing:
Add the oil and garlic to a sauce pan and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, until the garlic is simmering and just starting to turn brown. Cool to room temperature.
Combine the olive oil/garlic mixture, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
For the salad:
Combine the pasta, dressing, tomatoes, arugula, and feta in a large bowl and toss to coat. Let it in the fridge for an hour or two, or eat it straight out of the mixing bowl. Chef’s choice. But it really does get better as it chills.