Basil Spaghetti with Breadcrumb-Topped Tomatoes

I do realize that just about every blog and food website out there has posted a fresh tomato/summer/ basil pasta recipe recently, and at the risk of seeming redundant, here’s mine.  There are those of us who think that there is no such thing as too many fresh tomato/summer/basil pasta recipes anyway, especially with the tomatoes and basil flourishing like mad in the garden right now.

But I’ve imbued this little gem of a recipe with my own little twist, and I must say that it rather rocks.  The original recipe comes to us via Real Simple magazine and has us topping our basil-laden spaghetti with tomato slices that have been topped with mozzarella cheese and broiled and why on earth would anyone mess with that, you ask? 

Well, yes, it was good, but it just seemed to me that it lacked personality.  And I do like my pastas to have a little charisma, so I took those lovely, fresh summertime tomato slices, topped them with a flavorful breadcrumb mixture

(breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, basil, olive oil, etc.), broiled them until golden and crispy and topped my pasta with those.  Yes, loads of personality… flavor and texture and fun.  Perhaps the best part of this, though, was just stirring up those breadcrumb-topped tomatoes into the creamy pasta, which created a whole other level of textures and flavors and well, wasn’t I pretty pleased with myself.

Mostly, though, I was just pleased with this bowl of fresh, summertime goodness.  Here’s the recipe…

Basil Spaghetti with Breadcrumb-Topped Tomatoes

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from Real Simple

For the pasta:

1 lb  spaghetti

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese (plus more for serving)

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

 3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves & more for serving.

For the tomatoes:

1 lb roma tomatoes (about 5), cut into ¼-inch slices

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

¼ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh black pepper

Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil for the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the next 6 ingredients and set aside.

Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. 

Dividing evenly, place a portion of the breadcrumb mixture on each of the tomato slices, drizzle with some olive oil, and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven when the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and crisp.  Set aside.

While your pasta is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper.  Saute briefly and remove from the heat.

Cook the pasta until al dente (about 1 minute less than the pkg indicates).  Using a 2-cup measuring cup, remove about 1 ½ cups of the cooking water and then drain your pasta.

Place the pasta in the sauté pan and stir to combine thoroughly with the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Add the chopped basil, the grated cheese, some salt and pepper and enough of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy sauce.  Pour the pasta into a large serving bowl (or individual serving bowls).  Top with with the breadcrumb-topped tomatoes and another sprinkling of chopped basil.  Serve with extra grated parmesan cheese.  This is really good if you use your fork to smash the tomatoes into the pasta and mix the breadcrumbs in too.