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Roasted Sweetness

It’s been quite a week. I’ve roasted and canned 15 pints of cherry tomato soup, along with roasted sauce and whole paste tomatoes. I absolutely love putting up food and canning. It is peaceful and steady work. As I fill up our larder we consider ourselves fortunate to grow the food we will enjoy this winter. Every time I can or freeze something I reduce the times I need to leave the farm. As we all know Covid-19 is alive and well. We really don’t know what the future holds. Staying fluid and flexible is the order of the day. So putting up food seems like a practical way to prepare for the very real possibility of staying home for much of the winter months.

The idea of being home this winter is actually something that feels welcoming. After we put the farm to bed for the season, winter is the time that our home truly becomes of haven. We read, we dream, play board games, cook, bake and of course talk. Enjoying each other never gets old, even though we are together pretty much 24/7. It used to surprise me, but now I’m just plain grateful. If there’s an upside to Covid, it’s slowing down and taking the time to decide what is important to us. I have begun to realize that those of us who feel satisfied with the simple joys of life do a little better with isolation. After several years of health trauma and loss, simple feels good.

This week I’m offering up Tomato Conserva and a wonderful recipe Spaghetti with Tomato Conserva, Pancetta and Pecorino, from my cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat. The Italians look upon conserva in several ways. To ‘store’ to ‘save’ to ‘keep’; preserving the harvest in some way, be it sweet or savory. Sweet conserva’s might look like jam, marmalade or preserves; savory might look like roasting, dehydrating, freezing or canning. When paste tomatoes are in abundance, my favorite conserva is roasting slices of these meaty vegetables low and slow. Thick slices of plum tomatoes tossed with olive oil, garlic and flake salt (I use Maldon), result in something altogether different; rich, meaty and marvelous. Think pasta, sandwiches, salad or pizza.

Thick slices of paste tomatoes ready for roasting.

Six hours later.

TOMATO CONSERVA

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 4 pounds of plum/paste tomatoes (I found that for 2 large rimmed baking sheets you need 24 tomatoes).

  2. 4 cloves of garlic for each sheet, peeled and smashed

  3. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  4. Kosher or Maldon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Slice each paste tomato into 1/2 inch slices (you will get 3 slices per tomato and 35 slices per sheet). Place slices next to each other on baking sheets. Drizzle olive oil over slices, then sprinkle with flaked salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  3. Place the baking sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 225 degrees F. Slowly roast, switching the trays from upper to lower each hour, until the tomatoes look like juicy sun-dried tomatoes; wrinkly and slightly browned in spots, 5-6 hours.

  4. Let the tomatoes cool for at least 10 minutes before using or serving. I use one whole sheet for the following recipe. The additional sheet will fill 3 half pint mason jars. Drizzle some additional olive oil over them for freezing, about 3 tablespoons. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for 2-4 months.

2 cups (one sheet) of slow roasted paste tomatoes

SPAGHETTI WITH TOMATO CONSERVA, PANCETTA AND PECORINO

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 pound spaghetti or linguine

  2. 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  3. 4 ounces pancetta, pre-chopped

  4. 2 cups tomato conserva, coarsely chopped

  5. 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  6. 2 ounces finely grated pecorino cheese (approximately 2 cups)

  7. 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

  8. 1 cup dry toasted fresh breadcrumbs (optional)

The conserva sauce coming together.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of hot pasta water and drain the pasta.

  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

  3. Add the tomato conserva, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and toss to combine. Add the drained pasta and cook, tossing until heated through about 3 minutes.

  4. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oik, and 1/2 the pecorino and parsley. Toss, adding more pasta water, if needed, to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  5. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of reserved pecorino. Serve in shallow bowls topping with toasted breadcrumbs if using.

Serves 4-6

“Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” —Sheila Grahm

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