Pasta Ponza from Giada – An Easy, Light Pasta Dish, Perfect for Summer

Today is a busy day.  I’m taking Ken out of school early so we can see our school pyramid’s art show; one of his drawings was selected.  I also want him to see what kinds of high school art classes are available at our local high school since that is his passion.  Later this evening we are attending his string orchestra concert at his school.  As I said, busy day, so I needed an easy meal that didn’t need much fuss.  I remembered a favorite summer dish from Giada – Pasta Ponza!

I first had this dish at my sister Tina’s house.  I remember she was nervous about how it would come out; it’s a pasta dish with a sauce made from baked tomatoes and bread crumbs, plus a little pasta water as needed.  No need for her worry– it was fantastic!  The juices from the cherry tomatoes and the bread crumb topping came together as a flavorful binder for the pasta.  Grated parmigiano and chopped flat leaf parsley round out the flavors.  I loved how fresh and light this dish tasted, and unlike a baked pasta it’s not loaded with tomato sauce, cheese and meat!

I think it’s a perfect summer meal; the original recipe from Giada is here.  Although it’s still early in the season for tomatoes, store-bought cherry tomatoes are usually pretty good year-round.  Most groceries now sell a combination pack of red, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes that are wonderful in this dish, but any combination (even just reds on their own) will work.  The remaining ingredients are items most families have in their pantry:  pasta, Italian bread crumbs, etc.  Since I personally do not care for the sheep milk taste of Pecorino-Romano, I substitute Parmigiano.

So much color and flavor!

So much color and flavor!

Pasta Ponza (from Giada)

24 oz  cherry tomatoes (red, yellow, orange), about 4 cups
1/4 c capers, rinsed and drained
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1 lb penne pasta
1 1/4 c grated Parmigiano
1/4 c Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Oil an 8×8 square glass dish.  Cut the tomatoes in half (or quarters if very large) and toss into the dish.  Add the salt, pepper, capers and olive oil.  Toss to ensure all the tomatoes are coated in a little oil.
Dressed with a little oil, S&P and capers!

Dressed with a little oil, S&P and capers!

Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.
Make sure to use crumbs with Italian seasoning-- you're making the sauce for the pasta here!

Make sure to use crumbs with Italian seasoning– you’re making the sauce for the pasta here!

Drizzle the top of the crumbs (fairly generously) with more olive oil and bake for 35 minutes or until tomatoes have broken down and the crumb top is golden brown.
The oil helps to brown the crumbs as well as add flavor

The oil helps to brown the crumbs as well as add flavor

Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.
This is your sauce

This is your sauce

While tomatoes bake, cook the pasta.  Drain, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.  In a serving bowl, mix the warm pasta with the tomato mixture.
See, it looks like a baked pasta!  Add pasta water if you want a looser sauce

See, it looks like a baked pasta! Add pasta water if you want a looser sauce

Add the cheese and toss.  Add pasta water as needed.
Yep, that's 1 1/4 cups of real Parm...

Yep, that’s 1 1/4 cups of real Parm…

Taste for seasonings; add salt and pepper as needed.  Sprinkle parsley on top and serve!
Summer on a plate!

Summer on a plate!

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