This is the ultimate summer pasta salad! Fresh tomatoes are marinated with olive oil, garlic, red onions, and balsamic vinegar before being tossed with cooked pasta and fresh basil. A terrific way to use your best summer fresh tomatoes!
Recently, I was craving bruschetta. It’s not a weird craving for me. In fact, I often crave grilled or toasted bread that has been topped with tomatoes. That’s probably why I make Toasted Tomato Sandwiches so often! Most often, the tomato mixture used for bruschetta is eaten right away. But, I thought it would be even better if everything could sit in the fridge for a while and melt together. Marinated Bruschetta Pasta was the result!
I really do think that marinating the tomatoes with the onions and garlic makes for a better tasting bruschetta. But, I understand that some of you might not want to do that. Will this pasta recipe work if you don’t marinate? Absolutely! Like I said, I just think the ingredients taste better, meaning that the flavours marry together and taste better over all. If you want to eat it fresh, by all means, do so!
This pasta can be served cold right from the fridge. But, it’s also really good warmed through. If you toss the tomato mixture with freshly cooked, hot pasta, the residual heat from the pasta will warm through the tomatoes. Besides, the garlic is cooked with the oil, so the heat from that will also help.
If you plan to make it ahead of time and re-heat it later, I would not add any fresh basil to it before storing it. Save that for after it is reheated. There’s nothing worse than fresh basil that is limp, especially when fresh basil ribbons are an option! To reheat, you can microwave it, but I think a gentle heat in a skillet makes better sense. You don’t want to overcook the pasta.
SUMMER FRESH TOMATOES
If you’re thinking about making bruschetta at all, you must have some summer fresh tomatoes on hand, right? The whole concept of bruschetta is about combining freshly chopped tomatoes with a few basic ingredients. Obviously, I have taken some liberties by creating a pasta dish with it. It is most always found on toasted or grilled bread. No matter how you eat it, fresh tomatoes is always the start!
Any tomato will do, but I think the best tomatoes are the ones with more meatiness. When a tomato is describe as being meatier, it simply means that the ratio of tomato flesh to the seeds and pulp mixture, is higher. A good example of this is the beefsteak tomato. They are quite large and the walls of the tomato are thick and sturdy. They’re most often found on sandwiches for this reason.
For me, personally, I prefer the roma tomato. In my opinion, this variety has the best flavour, and most certainly, the best colour. A perfectly ripe roma tomato has a deep red colour and just pops in contrast to other recipe ingredients. I use the roma tomato almost exclusively in my recipes. Tomatoes on the vine are perfect for this recipe too!
WHAT IS BRUSCHETTA?
Unlike this Marinated Bruschetta Pasta, bruschetta itself has a long history. Some say it dates back to the Ancient Romans. One this is certain, and that is for centuries it has fed labourers and farmers with day-old bread. It served both as a hearty snack or meal for those doing hard manual labour, and as a way to salvage bread that had gone stale.
The beauty of bruschetta is its simplicity. There is no way to make a good bruschetta from bad ingredients. It has to be fresh; it has to have the best ingredients available. Otherwise, it’s edible, yes, but it’s just mediocre at best. Locally grown tomatoes are a must! Use a good tasting olive oil. Does it need to expensive? No. It just has to taste good to you. Pour olive oil onto your finger. Taste it; is it good? Great! If not, try another brand.
I found this description online and it sums up bruschetta perfectly. It’s an Italian appetizer consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. It is often topped with tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, or cheese. The most popular is bruschetta with tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, onion, and seasonings.
HERE IS WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Pasta – Any short-shaped pasta will do. I used penne, but you could use longer pasta too. Spaghetti would be perfect!
- Olive Oil – Use good tasting olive oil. I tend to light a light olive oil, but you use what tastes good to you.
- Garlic – Freshly minced garlic here! None of that jarred or tube type!
- Tomatoes – Meaty tomatoes are best. I used roma tomatoes. You will need 8-10 tomatoes.
- Red Onion – You can put in as much red onion as you wish, but it is strong. I used 1/4 cup of thin slices.
- Balsamic Vinegar – Italians love this! Just like the olive oil, use one that you like the taste of on its own.
- Basil – Fresh basil is a must. Do not be tempted to use dried basil from your spice rack.
- Salt & Pepper – Seasonings are needed. I love lots of black pepper in this recipe. There’s a lot of salt too, but the salt brings out the flavour of the tomatoes.
- Parmesan – This is completely optional. Most North American-based bruschetta recipes have cheese, so you can add parmesan if you wish.
COOKING PERFECT PASTA EVERY TIME!
Someone once told me that I prepare pasta like an old Italian grandma. That has stuck we me for so many years. You see, Dear Reader, I’m far from perfect, but cooking pasta is one thing I can certainly do perfectly. I don’t care what the back of the pasta package says, cook your pasta according to taste and texture. Ignore everything else. Here are my 4 steadfast rules. If you follow these, you’ll have the best tasting Marinated Bruschetta Pasta possible!
Rule #1: Say no to oil!
Do you add oil to your pasta water before adding the pasta? Stop that right now! I don’t know who’s responsible for that, but I have seen some TV chefs do it! If you add oil to your pasta water, do you know what happens when you put the sauce on it? The sauce won’t stick as well as it should. It will slide off, because the oil prevents it from sticking.
Rule #2: Add extra salt!
Salt the water. I used to be so afraid of salting pasta water, because I thought it would be too salty to eat. Salting the water, before you add the pasta, is the only chance you get to season that pasta. Let the water come to full boil before adding your salt. The water should taste like the ocean.
Don’t dump the salt in; stir it in. Preventing the salt from settling at the bottom of your pot will keep your pot looking shiny and new. If you have pots with what looks like a tarnished or unpolished interior bottom, it’s because salt sat at the bottom of your pot.
Rule #3: Get that pasta moving about immediately!
Lastly, stir the pasta for a good minute when you first add it to the water. This helps to wash off some of the starch and prevents the pasta from sticking to the pot and to itself. I always pull out a piece of pasta 4 minutes before the package says it will be ready. Taste it. Chew it. It shouldn’t be completely soft. If it has a bit of bite left in the center, get it out of the water and drain it immediately. You can thank me later!
Rule #4: Do not rinse!
So many of us are tempting to rinse pasta under running water after it’s been drained. I think it comes from the notion that it gets rid of starch. Well, it does in a way. But, when pasta begins to cool off and dry a bit, it comes a little sticky. That stickiness soaks up pasta sauce, so don’t flush it out!
A quick drain is all you need. Get the pasta into a bowl or onto a plate. Get the sauce on it and serve it up. If you are one of those people that rinses pasta so that it doesn’t get sticky, hold off on cooking it until your sauce is ready. That way, it won’t have time to get stick before you plate it up!
HOW TO PREPARE THE BRUSCHETTA
I hope, Dear Reader, that you are not put off by the word marinated. Whenever I look through recipes on Pinterest or in Facebook group, whenever I see the word marinated, it tends to disappoint me. I know that whenever I marinate something, it has much more flavour. But, you see, I’m impatient by nature. I don’t like to wait for things. But, some things, like this pasta, is worth it. I’m working on my issues!
The first thing you want to do is to cook the garlic. If you absolutely love a strong garlic flavour, you don’t have to do this at all. I find that the raw garlic completely takes over the flavour of the tomatoes if it isn’t cooked first. So, add the olive oil to a sauce pan along with the garlic. Over medium heat, cook the garlic just until it is really fragrant and just starting to lose it’s creamy colour. You don’t want to brown it, just cook it.
Pour the oil and garlic into a glass bowl to cool. If you leave it in the sauce pan, it will continue to cook. And, Dear Reader, garlic burns so quickly! So, don’t walk away from the sauce pan when cooking the garlic. Otherwise, you might need to start over. Burnt garlic is bitter.
While the garlic and oil are cooling, chop the tomatoes into a small dice – about 1/2 inch. Transfer them to a bowl. Next, add in the thinly sliced red onions. Finally, add the salt, ground black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat. Now, check to see that the olive oil is cooled. Warm is okay, but not hot. We don’t want to cook the tomatoes. Pour the cooled oil and garlic into the tomatoes. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. If you are not planning to marinate, you can go ahead and use it immediately.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
When you’re ready to serve, you have two options. First, toss the cooked pasta with the tomato mixture and the fresh basil. You can serve this immediately for a warm version. The heat from the pasta should warm up the room temperature tomatoes. This only applies if you have not marinated the tomatoes in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Otherwise, toss the cooked pasta with the chilled and marinated tomato mixture. You can enjoy it now with fresh basil stirred in, or you can set it back into the fridge until ready to serve. Either way, do not add the basil until you are ready to plate up the Marinated Bruschetta Pasta! Top with parmesan if desired. Now, isn’t that delicious!?
Marinated Bruschetta Pasta
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 10 whole tomatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning pasta water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 450 grams pasta, cooked and drained
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
- parmesan cheese, optional
- Add the olive oil to a sauce pan along with the garlic. Over medium heat, cook the garlic just until it is really fragrant and just starting to lose it’s creamy colour. You don’t want to brown it, just cook it.
- Pour the oil and garlic into a glass bowl to cool.
- While the oil cools, chop the tomatoes into a small dice – about 1/2 inch. Transfer them to a bowl.
- Next, add in the thinly sliced red onions.
- Finally, add the salt, ground black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat.
- Pour the cooled oil and garlic into the tomatoes. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
- Once the tomatoes have marinated, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. (See blog post for tips.)
- Drain the pasta and toss it with the chilled and marinated tomato mixture. You can enjoy it now with fresh basil stirred in, or you can set it back into the fridge until ready to serve.
- Either way, do not add the basil until you are ready to plate up the Marinated Bruschetta Pasta! Top with parmesan if desired.