Weeknight Dinners: Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Weeknight Dinners: Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

It may be fall, but summer’s tomatoes are not finished. The days are warm and gentle, and our tomato plants are hanging in there, kicking back and relaxing on the vine in the golden California sunshine. We pass by and pop them in our mouths, or pick a bunch and pile them in bowls for a snack. But they still accumulate. When I have too much (is that really possible?) I look for other uses, and there are many.

This is one of my favorite ways to cook with an abundance of cherry tomatoes. It coincides perfectly with the beginning of the school year, when we are crazy busy and running in 4 directions. The family dinner becomes elusive and suddenly time specific. Yet it’s even more important now, providing a great moment to sit together and connect after our busy day. This recipe is the perfect antidote. It may be prepared in almost no time, it’s healthy and economical, and it usually pleases the fussiest of eaters. Which is good, because they need to eat and get to their homework.

Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Breadcrumb Gremolata

Serves 4, unless you have a teen-aged boy. Then it serves 1.

For the Breadcrumb Gremolata:
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and/or basil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes

Prepare the gremolata:
Toast the breadcrumbs in a dry skillet until light golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Prepare the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling bowl. Add linguine and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, but don’t completely dissolve, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add linguine to skillet and toss to coat. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve immediately.

Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza

~ Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza ~

Try this pizza on for a weeknight dinner. Homemade pizza is fun to make and with a little organization a breeze to pull together on a school night. The best part is fiddling with different ingredients depending on what’s in season and what’s in the refrigerator. We made this pizza the other night, making use of the abundance of cherry tomatoes we have at the moment, some coppa (which may be substituted with prosciutto or a dry salami) and handfuls of fresh arugula.

When I do have time on my hands, I will make a double portion of crust and sauce. The extras are portioned and frozen for easy use. Just pull them out of the freezer early in the morning or the night before you plan to use them to defrost in the refrigerator.

Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza

Be sure not to overload the pizza with the toppings. The amounts below are approximations and will vary with the size of the crust. Makes 2 10-inch pizzas or 4 small pizzas.

2 uncooked 10-inch pizza crusts (recipe below)
2/3 cup  tomato sauce (recipe below)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 slices (3 ounces) coppa, torn in half
2 cups arugula
1 heaping cup small cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 F. Roll out crusts on parchment paper.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over each crust, leaving one inch clear around the edge of the crust. Arrange one layer mozzarella over the sauce. Top with a layer of coppa. Scatter tomatoes and arugula over the coppa. Sprinkle with pecorino. Brush the exposed crust with olive oil.
Slide the parchment and pizzas onto a baking stone on lowest rack in oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately as is or topped with additional fresh arugula and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters. Makes 2 – 10 inch or 4 mini pizza crusts.

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir yeast and lukewarm water together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and semolina. Mix well. Let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Combine remaining flour and salt in another bowl. Add to yeast with cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks (or 4 if you would like small pizzas.) Let rest 30 minutes before shaping. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands, stretch the disks out to 10-inch shapes.