An extraordinary dinner, worthy of a New Year's celebration, doesn't have to be fussy. Just use the best ingredients. Slow roasted tomatoes are a rich companion to the Sardinian caviar known as bottarga. The pasta of choice is the humble spaghetti. The result is magnificent. This is our adaptation of a recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert.
Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a large main course
NY's EASY: SPAGHETTI WITH OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES and BOTTARGA
Extra virgin olive oil to be used throughout the dish
10 oz. cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Pinch of sugar
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper flakes (optional)
2 oz. Sardinian caviar (bottarga di muggine)
Peel of 1 small lemon, grated
2 slices white bread
1 clove garlic, minced
10 - 12 oz. spaghetti
Chopped chives as a garnish
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.
Cut tomatoes in half and place in a well oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with the sliced garlic, sugar, bay leaf, salt and pepper and some hot pepper flakes, if using. Bake until the tomatoes are lightly caramelized. Approximately one hour, checking often to make sure they do not burn. The juices should be just slightly thickened.
TIP: These tomatoes freeze well. We make extra and eat them throughout the year. If you roast the tomatoes a day or so earlier and refrigerate them, you can put the finished dish together in the time it takes to cook the pasta.
Grate the bottarga with a shredder. Use the largest holes for a very course grate. Combine with lemon zest, 1/2 tsp black pepper and several tablespoons olive oil. You want to use enough oil to keep the mixture soft and moist.
Using a small food processor or blender, grind the bread slices with the minced garlic clove. Heat some olive oil in a medium frying pan, add the crumb mixture, and fry until light brown. Transfer to another container (like a cool frying pan) to stop the cooking.
Cook the spaghetti in salted water until it is not quite al dente. Transfer spaghetti to a large frying pan, reserving the cooking water.
Add the roasted tomatoes and some hot pepper flakes to taste, if using, to the spaghetti and cook over medium heat until the pasta is al dente. Use enough of the reserved water to assist the cooking, perhaps a couple of tablespoons, but more might be necessary. When the pasta is done, mix in the grated bottarga and cook for one more minute over medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately plate on warmed dishes. Drizzle additional olive oil over the plates. Top with bread crumbs and chives.
WINE SUGGESTION: Many Italian reds would be great. We also like a good petite sirah.