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dinner irl: pasta with burst cherry tomatoes

Dealing with meal prep – early in the day, or even the night before – is one of my “golden rules” for managing dinners on busy weeknights. And, for most of the year, I can accomplish this task pretty easily.

Except at THIS time of year.

From Thanksgiving straight through Christmas Eve I am non-stop baking, creating, wrapping and decorating – and every minute of my day seems to be accounted for before my feet even hit the floor.

But dinner still needs to happen. Every. Single. Night.

Which means even my “go-to” meals are either too time consuming for a December dinner, or can’t be started in advance. Which means that I need even easier/quicker/simpler options for this hectic month.

Which means meals like this:


This pasta dish is a DREAM. And it’s so easy and versatile that you’ll probably find yourself making it all year long. But I especially love it now because it takes even the most ho-hum carton of grape tomatoes and turns them sweet and caramelized. Because the copious amounts of mint allow me to pretend that I’m totally okay with not seeing basil for many months to come. And because: cheese.


The original recipe calls for some diced pancetta to be sauteed at the start – which would be fabulous except that we are trying to go more “meatless” these days. If you’re not, cook about 6 ounces of diced pancetta in one tablespoon of oil till the fat starts to render (about 2 minutes), and then add the garlic and red pepper and proceed with the rest of the recipe.


Do you have any super-fast recipes that you’d like to share? Please do!

Pasta with Burst Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from the New York Times

1 pound fusilli pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (use THIS method!)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan
the best ricotta cheese you can find
3 cups whole mint leaves, torn
4 scallions, thinly sliced
flaky sea salt, to finish

Cook pasta till al dente – drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water (drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the oil and heat till hot. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. If desired, remove and discard the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook until they shrivel up slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the drained pasta to pan and toss to coat; if the mixture looks dry add the pasta cooking water a few tablespoons at a time. Cook over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes,  add the butter and parmesan and stir to coat well. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the mint and scallions. Serve pasta in warmed bowls with a generous dollop of ricotta, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver


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