Beyond the Relish Tray—Cherry Tomato Pesto

A rainbow row of cherry tomatoes at the farmers market the other week was an unavoidable reminder that cherry tomato pesto season had arrived. This sauce, inspired by a Lydia Bastianich recipe, is raw except for brief toasting of almonds, and is sort of like a smooth version of the more familiar raw, chunky mixture of chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and basil that gets tossed with hot pasta and cheese. I like that one, especially with way-overripe tomatoes left to macerate with the garlic and olive oil for a couple of hours, but I was getting to like this cherry tomato one better—there’s just something about the sweet-tart taste of a cherry tomato that’s worth appreciating beyond the usual relish tray or topping a salad. And then, when I had the genius idea of adding goat cheese to this sauce, the deal was sealed.

I’ve made it a couple of times this summer with the school-bus-yellow Sungold cherries, and once with a deep orange variety. I’m anticipating my very fave, teensy red Sweet 100s from my own garden. You could choose any from the rainbow in the photo at right to coordinate with your menu, or maybe even your décor.

Cherry Tomato Pesto

½ cup blanched almonds, lightly toasted

1 basket cherry tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Handful of basil leaves

3 tablespoons grated pecorino romano, plus more for garnish

4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

Pinch red pepper flakes

Sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Reserved pasta-cooking water

Cooked thin spaghetti or other long pasta

In blender, combine almonds, tomatoes, garlic, basil, 3 tablespoons pecorino romano, goat cheese, olive oil, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Blend to smooth purée; adjust seasoning.

Toss with hot cooked pasta, loosening sauce with reserved pasta water if necessary. Garnish with additional pecorino romano, and a small drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

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