Ciao tutti! Summer has been a magical whirlwind of travel, guests, family and friends. With my new kitchen now fully up and running, I have loved getting to know its rhythm whether the finesse of using the new range or the simplest of tasks in figuring out how best to stack the new dishwasher. And I have loved having an excuse to entertain weekend after weekend.
With the summer season winding down and the chill of autumn not yet upon us, I find that our local farmer’s market is still loaded with tables of gorgeous tomatoes of all shapes and sizes – plump heirloom, sweet cherry, meaty San Marzano. I know that soon enough that fresh tomato taste will be gone for the season and in the dead of winter, it is THIS flavor of summer I miss the most.
I was recently at my little home in Montalcino where an impromptu dinner with friends led to my returning home with a huge basket of gorgeous tomatoes. The owner disappeared just after dinner and a few minutes later returned, beaming with pride, with a huge basket of fresh picked tomatoes in his arms. The first bite of those tomatoes, sliced and dressed with just a sprinkle of coarse salt, was like a kiss from the summer sun.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes is by giving them a roast in the oven to further coax out their sweetness. These beauties can then be used as a topping for a torta as with the recipe I have included here. I used a sheet of store-bought puff pastry for the crust that makes preparation of the torta super simple. I added a layer of creamy lemon-scented mascarpone to highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes. You could easily skip this step and sprinkle your crust with some Parmesan cheese, layer on the roasted tomatoes and sprinkle on more cheese with a drizzle of oil to finish.
These tomatoes also make a wonderful simple summer sauce for the pasta. Cook up the pasta of your choice. Add the tomatoes to the pasta with a bit of the pasta water to smooth out the sauce and you have the tastiest of meals. Or take that leftover bread from last eve’s dinner. Brush with olive oil and toast lightly in the oven. Rub with a clove of fresh garlic and top with the tomatoes for an easy appetizer. (Even better with a slather of ricotta underneath those tomatoes!)
And since you are firing up the oven, why not toss in a few heads of garlic to roast along with the tomatoes? Use as a topping on toasted bread (add the roasted tomatoes on top) or mixed into pasta or to infuse some olive oil.
Buon appetito! On to fall!
A simple roasted tomato torta to enjoy the last of the summer tomatoes!
For the roasted tomatoes:
- About 2 pounds of mixed tomatoes (heirloom, cherry, plum)
- 1 head of garlic
- Fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the torta:
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- Zest and juice from ½ lemon
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
- Grated Parmesan
- Extra virgin olive oil
Roast the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prep the tomatoes and garlic for roasting. I like to use a mix of sizes and shapes. For large tomatoes, slice into ¼ inch slices. For cherry tomatoes, cut in half. Leave some whole. Slice the top third crosswise off the head of garlic.
Place a rack in middle of oven. Arrange tomatoes and garlic in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the fresh herbs. Drizzle with oil; season with salt, pepper and a little sugar.
Roast until tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to caramelize, about 25-30 minutes (larger tomatoes will take longer). Remove from oven and serve as desired. These will keep about a week in the refrigerator. Place in a small jar or container and drizzle with more olive oil. Reserve the roasted garlic for other uses.
Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Assemble the torta:
In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone with the zest and juice from the lemon. Stir to combine.
Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to be slightly larger than an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Transfer to pan and trim to fit. Prick the pastry all over inside the rim with the tines of a fork. (This allows steam to escape from the pastry keeping it flat where the filling will be.) Spread mascarpone cheese mixture over the bottom of the pastry. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Lay the roasted tomatoes on the cheese. Sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Place on a center rack in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.