Last week I shared this recipe for linguine with two-cheese sauce, which utilized just a few tablespoons of mascarpone cheese. Subsequently, I received a few comments and emails from readers who mentioned that they'd like to try it, but never buy mascarpone because they don't always know how to use it all before it goes bad. I could totally relate - I've thrown away partially used containers of mascarpone (and ricotta) more times than I'd care to admit. So, if you've also run into this problem, today I'm offering another recipe suggestion and this one calls for over a cup of mascarpone, which means it'll go a long way toward helping you use whatever leftovers are in your fridge.
The recipe starts with tomatoes and garlic cloves, which are oven roasted for just about 15 minutes. In that short time, magic happens. First, the house smelled amazing - roasted garlic might just be one of my favorite aromas ever. I'll be honest, I've roasted tomatoes before (romas, I think) and I wasn't impressed. In fact, I didn't really like them. I'm not sure what's changed between now and then, but these roasted cherry tomatoes were like candy - I couldn't stop grabbing them off the baking sheet and popping them into my mouth. When we return from our vacation, these roasted tomatoes are one of the first things I want to make, and this time I don't plan to incorporate them into any recipes :)
I whipped this pasta up for lunch the other day (I halved the recipe), baking an individual gratin immediately and putting the rest in a rectangular pan in the fridge to be baked the next day. The gratin was fantastic - the sauce was rich and creamy from the mascarpone and, of course, each bite that contained one of those sweet roasted tomatoes was a favorite. It didn't feel as heavy as some other mac and cheese recipes I've made so that was an added bonus. Definitely a repeat here, maybe even with a few more veggies in the mix!
(PS - While the pan I baked the next day was pretty good, I enjoyed the gratin more and probably wouldn't recommend making this ahead of time.)
Pasta with Mascarpone and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Pink Parsley Catering (originally from Gourmet, February 2004)
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a 12 oz bag)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb pasta (I used Trader Joe's orecchiette)
1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
pinch red pepper flakes
2 oz (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Combine the tomatoes and garlic on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly plumped. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool slightly, then remove the garlic cloves and mince them.
While the tomatoes roast, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente (check the instructions on the package for time). Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, add the mascarpone and stir until melted and combined. Add the reserved pasta water, little by little, until the sauce has thinned a bit (I only used about 1/2 cup of the water). Gently mix in the red pepper flakes, minced garlic, tomatoes, half of the Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons of the chives, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the pasta into the baking dish and top with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pasta is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Garnish with remaining chives before serving.