There was a perfect storm in my pantry a couple of weeks ago, a moment when the very best of the fridge, freezer, garden and cupboards presented themselves all at once.
I found the last of last summer's slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer along with a few large shrimp, and a bit of locally produced feta in the cheese bin. The basil in my garden was ready for its first pinch-back, and a box of pasta, the twisty kind I like best, sat on the shelf.
There's nothing better than going into the pantry and coming out with ingredients that make a meal.
Everything was perfect. Everything, except for the black blob that suddenly appeared deep inside my camera when I went to photograph this oh-so-perfect pasta salad for you.
I took photos with my point-and-shoot, drove my camera to the hospital, and set out to make this dish again.
No more perfect storm, though. For one thing, I'd used up the tomatoes. I made the recipe twice more, with sun-dried tomatoes from the market (good, but not as good as the original). By the second try, I'd run out of feta, too.
So, please do what I'm doing this weekend. Go to the farmers market, or to your garden, and buy five pounds of ripe tomatoes. Slow roast them (I'll tell you how), and pack them for the freezer. Then make another batch, because once you taste them, you'll never buy sun-dried tomatoes again.
What are slow-roasted tomatoes?
Fresh tomatoes that have been cooked in the oven at very low temperature for a long period of time. Use them in place of sun-dried tomatoes in any recipe. Here's how I make them.
How/where to store:
In the refrigerator, covered with olive oil in a container with a tight-fitting lid, for up to one week; in the freezer, in a ziploc bag, for one year.
More facts about slow-roasted tomatoes, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Slow-roasted tomatoes (Recipe: goat cheese and basil bruschetta)
Pasta salad with shrimp, feta, basil and slow-roasted tomatoes
Having all of the ingredients in the pantry makes this a quick and delicious worknight dinner and picnic or potluck favorite. It's also a beautiful salad; my photos do not do it justice. Serves 4 as a main dish.
1/2 lb twisty pasta (rotini and cellentani are my favorites)
3/4 lb large (26-30 size) shrimp, shell on, uncooked, defrosted
1/2 cup slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped, with their oil
8-12 large basil leaves, roughly torn, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp olive oil, or more as needed
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again, and place in a large bowl.
Place the shrimp in a small pot, add two inches of water, and cover. Set the pot over high heat until the water comes to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook just until the shrimp turn pink (do not overcook). Remove from heat, drain the shrimp in a colander, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the shrimp and add to the pasta.
Add tomatoes, basil and feta to the pasta, and stir to combine. Add olive oil and black pepper, and stir again.
Serve at room temperature; can be refrigerated for two days. If you make this ahead, bring it to room temperature before serving.
Other recipes that use slow-roasted tomatoes:
Slow-roasted tomato hummus, from Andrea Meyers
Pasta salad with slow-roasted tomatoes, grilled zucchini and basil, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow-roasted tomato soup, from A Veggie Venture
Cheese tortellini with spinach and slow-roasted tomatoes, from Two Peas and Their Pod
Creamy eggplant tarts with slow roasted tomatoes, from Pittsburgh Needs Eated
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