I don't know why grape tomatoes seem to be in good shape at any time of year that I look for them, but in the dead of winter when any typical tomato is sad and lackluster, you can usually find a little box of nice grape tomatoes.
For my second attempt at recapturing our Italian honeymoon - this Pasta Al Crudaiola is inspired by a lunch we had at Trattoria Trebbi in Bologna. This is actually a Pugliese dish, from Southern Italy, which makes sense because it is so light and summery. Incredibly simple, incredibly fresh, dishes like this are why I love Italian food so much. You can taste every element, nothing overwhelms, and the flavors complement each other so nicely. It is also a super quick meal being as how the word "crudaiola" means raw - nothing is really cooked except the pasta. For my taste, I throw the tomatoes into a saute pan for just a minute before adding the cooked pasta and tossing, just to take the edge off of the rawness, but you could certainly skip that step and just toss the pasta with all raw ingredients.
What made me especially happy about this dish was that it essentially provides a canvas for you to grate excessive amounts of ricotta salata over. I'm rather obsessed with ricotta salata, a pressed and salted dry ricotta. It is softer than most grating cheeses, and the briney flavor more subtle. It goes especially well with vegetables, like one of my favorite pastas with cauliflower and walnuts. Recipe after the jump:
PASTA AL CRUDAIOLA
1 lb pasta of your choice (I used fresh linguine, but traditionally this is made with short pasta like penne)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
6-7 leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata, to taste
Prepare the pasta according to package directions and drain. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and olives in a large saute pan with a teaspoon of the olive oil and saute for no more than a minute. Add the drained pasta, fresh basil, pine nuts, and additional olive oil to coat and toss well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve in warm pasta bowls and grate the ricotta salata over individual bowls.