Summer has a taste. An awesome taste, for sure, but a taste that varies from person to person. For some this means sizzling hot dogs at the ballpark, others can’t get enough butter-dipped grilled corn, and, perhaps the most puzzling, there are people who crave early-morning salted nut rolls on the golf course (I know this from personal beer-cart girl experience). Truth be told, I’ve never craved a hot dog, I choose to slather my butter onto things more decadent than corn, and every morning I’d give a middle-aged man a look of disgust when he asked me for a salted nut roll in my beer-cart girl days. But, to each their own, because this girl has her own ideas about summer food.
For me, the first summery foods that come to mind are roasted veggies and tangy margaritas. So naturally, when we were enjoying 90+ heat in Minnesota this weekend, I asked the boy to fire up the grill and go buy some limes. After all, I had my first Minnesota sunburn, my first crazy 80’s hair day of the humid season, and that sleepy, relaxed, and intoxicating overheated high. It was time for a lime-filled adult beverage and an insanely wonderful combination of roasted veggies, fresh basil, and big ‘ol pasta shells. So, in other words, it was time for summer magic.
Fire-Roasted Tomato Pesto Shells
- 6 ounces baby tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cloves chopped garlic, divided
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- 14.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 leek
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Goat cheese
- 4 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used shells, and you should follow my lead)
In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, salt, pepper, rosemary, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir it up, and pour it onto a piece of aluminum foil. Set it aside for a moment while you get the peppers ready.
Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the ribs and seeds, and then brush them inside and out with the leftover oil in the bowl you used for tomatoes. Dust with a light sprinkling of salt.
Wrap up the tomatoes nice and tight in their foil. You want to seal in that air so it gets hella hot in that foil packet. Cook over medium-high heat until you can feel the tomatoes become soft when you push down on the foil (around 20 minutes).
Place the bell peppers cut-side down on a grill pan. Cook them for about 10 minutes, until nicely charred on one side, and then flip so the other side gets nice and toasty (about another 10 minutes).
Once they’re fully cooked, immediately place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This will allow them to steam so you can get the skins off easily.
After about 10 minutes of steaming, peel the skin off of 3 of the 4 halves. Chop up 2 of the halves into large strips. The other peeled one will be going into the pesto. The fourth (un-peeled) half was used for presentation purposes. If you don’t give a rip, just peel it and chop it up like the other halves.
Now that your veggies (mostly the tomatoes, because OMG the tomatoes) are roasted, let’s get that pesto going, shall we?
Place the basil and cashews in a food processor and chop until they form small chunks. Add the parmesan and process again, then pour in the roasted tomatoes and one of the roasted red pepper halves. Slowly add more olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until it’s smooth. I ended up using 2 more tablespoons of oil. Use your best pesto consistency judgment.
Cook your pasta following the package directions of the type you bought. My shells took about 13 minutes in boiling water. Did you listen to me and buy shells? I sure hope so, cause oh man oh man.
As the pasta is cooking, thinly slice the leek and wash the pieces well. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 clove of chopped garlic in a fry pan over medium heat. When the garlic is fragrant, add the leek pieces and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft.
Add the chickpeas, pesto, chopped roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir for 2-3 minutes until heated through. Pour the sauce onto the cooked pasta and combine well. Top with goat cheese and some sliced fresh basil.
The boy and I had two plating options this evening:
1. I wanted mine in the traditional bowl form. Keep it simple and scoop and eat, baby.
2. The boy wanted his served atop of the roasted red pepper half, so I set one aside for his artistic vision.
That roasted tomato flavor is just all over this dish. To make it even more insane, it’s paired with pesto, a smokey hint of roasted red pepper, and the tang of goat cheese.
The oversized shells I used were the perfect pasta for this dish. The ingredients would just hide inside, so each bite differed just slightly from the last.
Fine, I’ll say what you all are thinking; The boy’s dish was prettier than mine. It’s fine, I can take it. He may have been onto something with the pasta on top of a roasted pepper. I may or may not have coveted his plate a little. Or a lot. I mean look at that pile of yum.
But how can I truly covet anything when I have this summer-tastic pasta? Oh, and maybe one (or three) of these…
I pulled this recipe out of my summer-love intoxicated and sunburned arse, but it was awesome. As with most summer dishes, the roasted vegetables (specifically the tomatoes…did I mention the tomatoes?) steal the show. That slightly sweet-yet-savory and rich bite that’s just pureed through the whole thing and slathered on every big ‘ol pasta shell. It’s just ridiculous.
It’s heaven really. Summer taste heaven.
I don’t care what your summer food fantasies are, you should make this roasted vegetable pesto and slather it on everything. Hot dog? Sure, dip it in. Used in place of butter on corn? I’ll allow it. Salted nut roll? Eh, you should probably just go get some ice cream, cause I don’t even know what to do with you.