A twist on charred tomato sauce pasta made with toasted walnuts, basil, and whole wheat spaghetti, this plant-based dish is comforting and unexpected all at once.
When I think of char, I can’t help but think of Lebanon. When I visited, I was intrigued by how food would be charred within an inch of its life and I saw it over and over again be it almonds for garnishes, eggplant for a dip, or onions for a stew.
Sure, I lightly toast food to amp up the crunch factor and nutty flavor, but taking it to that extra charred state lends a smoky almost bitter note to things.
I’m now hooked on all things char and have come to desire a hint of bitterness in my savory dishes. So, I took those toasted memories and came up with this Burst Tomato Pasta with Charred Walnuts. One bite and I think it’s clear these under-appreciated tomatoes found their moment to shine.
Burst Tomato Pasta with Charred Walnuts Recipe
- 8 ounces whole wheat or quinoa spaghetti
- 1 cup walnut halves shelled
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided, plus more for garnish
- 4 shallots sliced paper thin
- kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cloves garlic sliced paper thin
- 1 1/2 pounds whole cherry or grape tomatoes washed and thoroughly dried
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- unrefined granulated sugar optional
- 1 handful fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves thinly sliced
- Cook The Pasta: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, place the walnuts in a dry small pan over medium heat and cook until they are dark golden brown and seriously toasted (you want them to be on the edge of being burnt but do not burn them)! Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.8 ounces whole wheat or quinoa spaghetti, 1 cup walnut halves
- Make The Burst Tomato Sauce: Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of the oil to a heavy-bottomed large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallots, stir in a pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 4 shallots, kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper
- Add the remaining oil, add the garlic and tomatoes, stir to coat in oil, then cook covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes start to collapse, about 4 to 5 minutes. With the back of a spoon or a potato masher, carefully smash any tomatoes that haven't already collapsed. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and the pomegranate molasses to the pan and stir to incorporate any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Stir in butter until melted, taste, and add salt or sugar, as desired.6 cloves garlic, 1 1/2 pounds whole cherry or grape tomatoes, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, unrefined granulated sugar
- Add the pasta and stir to coat with the sauce. Add remaining pasta water, as needed, so that the sauce delicately coats each strand of pasta. Stir in walnuts and basil or parsley and toss to coat the pasta. Taste, add more salt and pepper or oil as desired and serve immediately.1 handful fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves