A recent lunch with my former Italian instructor led to talk of good food and her memory of a favorite dish made by her mother. The dish sounded like a great candidate for a quick weeknight dinner, so I immediately asked for the recipe.
Susan Pezzino said her Sicilian mother used to make this pasta dish using beefsteak tomatoes. The tomato is partially cored, stuffed, then baked. It then forms the sauce for pasta. She would serve it in individual baking dishes doused with olive oil and sprinkled with bread crumbs before baking. For easier preparation, we have adapted those steps here to add the bread crumbs near the end.
Pezzino's mother would serve this with either a green salad or perhaps a cold green vegetable, such as broccoli or green beans cooked then chilled and dressed with lemon and olive oil.
Joe Gray writes for the Chicago Tribune, which provided the recipe analysis.
Pasta Ida Lucia Pezzino
Makes 4 servings -- Total time: 40 minutes
4 large beefsteak tomatoes, cored
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a lightly oiled baking sheet; divide the garlic and basil among the tomatoes. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in each; sprinkle with the salt. Cook until tomatoes soften and begin to shrivel but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat; add the capellini. Cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes; drain.
While pasta is cooking, heat the remaining olive oil in a large, heavy skillet; stir in the bread crumbs. Cook, stirring, until crumbs brown and become crispy, about 4 minutes. Toss the pasta with the bread crumbs; divide evenly among 4 pasta bowls. Nestle a tomato carefully in each bowl. Top with cheese. Serve, allowing diners to break up their own tomato and eat with the pasta.
Per serving: 421 calories, 14 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 61 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams protein, 477 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber
Menu Pasta Ida Lucia Pezzino, chilled broccoli with lemon and oil, orange sorbet with biscotti