Early September is always a period of in-between, a time of shift and recalibration. The body has stored up memories of all those years of back-to-school returns. An autumnal coolness can already be detected in the night breezes, though summer isn’t technically over until the equinox.
What to make of this time? As temperatures begin to drop, it’s tempting to start cooking (and drinking) like it’s already October, like there are already wood fires burning and piles of leaves on the ground. But this year – a year when summer has slipped by without much fanfare or celebration – instead of giving in too early to pumpkins and stews, I wanted to hold onto the brighter days and warmer weather as long as I could.
This dish is one of my recurring favourites, born of necessity: after arriving home from a long trip some years ago, the only things I had on hand were dried pasta, a jar of olive-oil-roasted cherry tomatoes I’d made and a wedge of goat gouda. The results could have been no more than a mildly successful fridge forage, but there’s something about the way the sweet, clover-like lactic softness of goat gouda (and it has to be goat – skip the cow milk version this time) works with those jammy tomatoes. With the addition of garlic, Parmigiano and thyme, the dish positively harmonises.
Slow-roasting the tomatoes in oil concentrates their flavour, making them taste peak-ripe and Mediterranean, all the summer sun metabolised directly into sweetness. The gouda, meanwhile, finds its way into a simple sauce, thanks to starchy pasta water, olive oil and a grind of black pepper.
If there’s an elegiac, end-of-season feeling to this dish, then I notice that same trait in Arianna Occhipinti’s SP68 Bianco. The young Sicilian winemaker is a star in the natural wine world and this bottle shows her savvy: made with perfumey Muscat and local favourite Albanello, it’s both luscious and restrained, while 15 days of skin maceration lends it body and heft. There are floral notes, aromas of lychee, but they’re tempered by a salty minerality and zesty, dried herbs.
It tastes to me like the last days of summer: all that lush fruitfulness still present, but already beginning to wane.
Fusilli with Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Gouda
For the tomatoes:
700g cherry tomatoes
6–8 cloves garlic
Small handful thyme sprigs
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1–2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), to taste
Black pepper, to taste
For the pasta:
Fine sea salt, to taste
200g goat gouda, finely grated
Black pepper, to taste Parmigiano Reggiano
- Preheat the oven to 150° Celsius (300° Fahrenheit). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange, cut-side-up, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Peel the garlic cloves but leave whole; scatter among the tomatoes along with the thyme sprigs. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season well with the sea salt and pepper.
- Transfer the tomatoes to the oven and roast for approximately 40 minutes, or until they are softened and just starting to darken on top. Pause to rotate the tray halfway through to ensure they cook evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the fusilli and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving at least 200ml of the pasta water.
- Return the drained pasta to the pot and add a good slosh of the pasta water, plus some of the olive oil from the tomatoes. Mix to combine. Slowly add the grated cheese, stirring very well as you go, until a sauce forms; you may need to add more pasta water to ensure a creamy consistency. Season generously with black pepper, and any additional salt to taste.
- Add the tomatoes and garlic mix to the pasta and stir through until just combined. Divide between plates and garnish with additional thyme sprigs and a good grating of Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve immediately.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription boxes.