Besides an abundance of green beans, tomatoes are ripening on the vine, and we have a good supply of basil. It’s an ideal time to put these garden lovelies to use in bruschetta, the delectable tomato, basil, and garlic side dish served on toasted French bread.
But as usual, I’m more interested in getting at least one entire dinner out of my efforts in the kitchen, particularly on a hot day, so I have made some very simple adaptations to the traditional bruschetta to make it a meal. It’s still super easy.
I do this by using the entire tomato when I dice it, seeds and all, rather than using just the fleshy portion of the tomato and discarding the seeds. I throw in a can or two (or three) of chick peas for added protein, and we have a meal.
Sometimes I also add a few Greek olives to the dish, which are family favorites, but that is entirely optional.
Of course, you don’t need your own garden to make this dish. You don’t even need fresh tomatoes or garlic. You can always use canned, diced tomatoes, and garlic powder, if that makes life easier for you.
But fresh, local tomatoes are readily available at this time of year, and I am a strong proponent of trying to use fresh ingredients when they are in season. So if you have access to such produce, by all means try it.
And I do highly recommend using fresh basil for this recipe. There is simply nothing quite like the taste it lends to this traditional dish, and the dried version just does not offer the same dramatic flavoring.
I recommend cooking extra, and using it in another recipe later in the week to save even more cooking time. During the hot summer months, you want to spend as little time as possible over the stove, so any time you do cook, plan ahead and try to make ingredients do double duty.
As I will mention often in my recipes, use whatever pasta your budget allows, but if you can afford it, whole grain pasta is the healthier option. It is higher in fiber, something many Americans lack in their diet, and some varieties are also fortified and higher in protein.
Simply combine the tomato bruschetta ingredients in a bowl or pan and then toss them with together with the cooked pasta. Presto, you’re done.
Serve it right away warm, or refrigerate it until shortly before you are ready to serve, or simply allow it to sit at room temperature, if it's not too hot a day. It's delicious chilled, room temperature, or warm. It's entirely a matter of personal preference.
I cooked my pasta early in the day before it got too hot and then refrigerated it. But this recipe is so quick, you could also make it at the end of the day after the sun has begun to go down. From start to finish, the entire meal can be ready in about 15 minutes. But it is even better if allowed to sit for a bit, or as leftovers the second day.
As always, I serve it with a tossed salad and a nice loaf of whole grain bread. Sometimes I add fresh, steamed corn (cooked in its husk in the microwave for 2.5 minutes, so no heating the kitchen at all) as an extra treat, or another steamed vegetable in season. So simple, but so delicious.
The total cost for the recipe is approximately $8 for about 8 hearty servings. lt’s far less if you have the good fortune to have your own tomatoes and basil, or if you use regular pasta, instead of whole grain. For the meal, with the salad and bread, figure on a range of $1.25-$2.00 per serving, depending on whether you use the extra garnishes of olives and have access to fresh produce at good prices.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes about 8 servings
Prep Time - Approximately 15 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time - Approximately 20 minutes -2 hours
(depending on whether and how long you refrigerate it first)
Total cost of recipe - $8-$10
Total per person meal cost with tossed salad and bread - $1.25-$2.00
2- 3 pounds ripe tomatoes
2-3 cans (14-16 ounce size) diced tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh basil – Approx. 20-30 medium leaves
6-8 large cloves of garlic (or ½-¾ teaspoon garlic powder)
1 pound (3-4 cups) whole grain shells or similar pasta
1-3 cans (14-16 ounce size) chick peas
¼ pound olives, Greek or California style (optional)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
Recipe continues after photos
- If you don't have cooked pasta on hand, put on a covered pan of water to cook it. When the water is boiling, add the box or bag of pasta and set the timer according to the instructions on the side of the package for a firm, al dente texture, usually about 7-8 minutes. A timer is a big help as a reminder to avoid overcooking.
- Meanwhile, cut the tips off the 6-8 garlic cloves and peel them. Chop them somewhat fine, or mince them.
- Wash the 3 pounds of fresh tomatoes, if you are using them. Cut off the stems. Dice the tomatoes into pieces about ¼-inch in size. Scrape them into a bowl or pan, along with their juice. Or open the can of tomatoes and empty it into a mixing bowl or pan.
- Wash the 20-30 basil leaves by holding the ends of the stems and swishing the leaves around in a bowl of water. Give the leaves a good shake to remove most of the water. Pluck the leaves off the stems.
- Stack about 8-10 leaves. Roll them up tightly starting at the stem end. Cut across the rolls to make very thin slices. Cut across the slices to create a coarsely chopped consistency. Repeat with the remaining leaves. It should make about 1/3 cup, but a little more or less is fine, too.
- For a warm meal, heat the 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot and add and cook the chopped garlic for a minute or so and then mix in the diced tomatoes and the chopped basil. Turn the burner off, and add the salt and pepper to taste. Or, you can just mix the olive oil, tomatoes and garlic together in a bowl or pan and add the salt and pepper to taste. Either way works.
- Drain and rinse the 1-3 cans of chick peas and stir them into the tomato mixture. Set the sauce aside until the pasta is done, or you are ready to eat.
- Optional: Chop or slice the 1/4 cup of olives, if you're using them. Stir them gently into the tomato mixture.
- When the pasta is done to taste, remove it from the heat and drain it in a colander.
- You can mix the pasta in with the tomato mixture, or you can serve the tomato sauce over individual plates of pasta. It's a matter of personal preference.
- This meal can be eaten warm, cold or room temperature.
- Serve the bruschetta style pasta with a nice tossed salad and some whole grain or French bread.