The moms at little Aria's preschool gather weekly for lunch so the toddlers get to interact more and have fun while enjoying food together. During these lunches, I've noticed that any round-rod, long strand type of pasta is always a favorite among the little ones. Yesterday, I prepared capellini pasta with roasted tomatoes and it was a true success.
I simply sautéed the very thin noodles in butter with spinach and added pre-roasted cherry tomatoes at the end. I completed the children's meal with small-sized meatballs. It was a great, healthy way to get the children to eat their veggies.
Servings: 6 servings
1 (1-pound) package capellini pasta
1 package cherry tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey, if necessary
4 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 bunch fresh spinach
4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, + extra for garnish
2 teaspoons sea salt, + extra for pasta water
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
¼ cup Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
Preheat the oven at 425°F.
For the roasted cherry tomatoes:
Slice the baby tomatoes in half. Grease a baking sheet with a little olive oil.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook until nice and fragrant. Add the honey and red wine vinegar. Turn off the heat. Add the mustard. Mix well. Place the tomatoes skin side down onto the baking sheet and drizzle with the honey/vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Pecorino. Let the tomatoes cool for a few minutes.
For the capellini pasta:
Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and it will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (both inside and out but still in shape and firm), reserve about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta (do NOT rinse).
In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add a drizzle of oil to prevent the butter from burning. Add the onions and cook until lightly golden. Add the spinach. Season with salt and when it's wilted, transfer to a platter. Add the capellini pasta and the remaining butter to the pan. Using tongs, toss the pasta for about 3-4 minutes. Return the spinach, then add basil. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add a little pasta water.
Transfer the pasta and spinach to a large serving platter. Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese, add the roasted cherry tomatoes and lightly toss. It's ready!