Pan-grilled peaches, cherry tomatoes, scallions and Parmesan create a satisfying, summery, sweet/savory vegetarian meal—Grilled Peaches and Tomatoes with Whole Grain Pasta. Recipe below.
We’re always looking for ways to mix sweet and savory in our kitchen. When Marion first described the idea for this dish, I knew it would be delicious. I was right. I’ll let her tell you about it.
Who doesn’t love a peach? And already this year we are getting some really luscious ones, sweet, tart, juicy, fragrant beauties that always seem to be sneaking into my lunch bag or onto my breakfast cereal. They are the best 4 PM pick-me-up and the perfect weekday dessert, all on their lonesome. I may not be having my lunch on a faded old sheet spread in the shade of a tree at the edge of a humming, warm meadow, but with a perfect ripe peach in my hand, I am almost there. There are so many ways to cook them, but when they are so brilliant on their own, why?
Then Terry’s PBJ on the outdoor grill a few weeks back got me thinking. At this time of year, I am always insincerely chattering about making things like peach pie, peach cobbler, peach tart, poached peaches. But how about peaches in a savory entrée?
This commenced a certain period of staring into the middle distance, the telly droning unheard in the background, mentally pacing store aisles and farmers markets and flipping through the pantry. Chicken or pork? Too much like the grilled chicken and jam Terry did a little while back in week 2 of strawberry jalapeno jam. Salad? Well, we’ve done that too, with an Arugula Salad with Peaches and Goat Cheese. Pasta? Not savory enough.
But wait. Instead of using regular white-flour pasta, something deeper and more assertive could do. Whole grain pasta is better than ever, with many manufacturers having defeated the yucky bitter flavor. That, I thought, just might work.
For this dish, which has very few players in it, use a whole grain pasta you already have confidence in—we used Barilla whole grain spaghetti. Don’t let the fruit become too ripe—it should still be firm and hold its shape well. If you have the option, choose freestone peaches, not cling, for ease in removing the pit. For the tomatoes, choose the grape or cherry tomatoes you like best. I used our own Sungolds, the only tomatoes we are growing this year in our little Chicago three-flat’s yard.
Everything in this dish cooks pretty quickly, although I admit the peaches demand a bit of close attention. This dish is good for a fairly fast summer-day dinner during the work week. Even with the grilling of the peaches, you can have it ready in less time than it takes to get a delivery pizza.
Grilled Peaches and Tomatoes with Whole Grain Pasta
3 peaches, just ripe
12 to 16 ounces whole grain pasta (see Kitchen Notes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup Sungold cherry tomatoes (or other cherry tomatoes), halved
3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces and then slivered
2-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cut the peaches in half, discarding the pits, and then cut the halves in thirds lengthwise. Leave the skin on. Brush the cut sides with olive oil.
Generously brush a grill pan with olive oil, then heat it to medium high on the stove. Place the peach wedges on the grill pan at about a 2 o’clock angle and sauté the wedges until grill marks form (should be about 2 minutes). Gently lift the wedges and turn them to 10 o’clock on the same side, so that you are making those beautiful criss-cross grill marks. Cook about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, then carefully turn the wedges and grill the other side. Be careful not to overcook so that the peaches start to lose their shape. Very gently remove from the grill pan and set them onto a plate and reserve. Set aside the grill pan—you are done with it.
Meanwhile, cook the whole wheat pasta, then drain it in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Rinse pasta with hot water and set aside.
The next part happens pretty quickly. If you can manage some overlap, so that you start cooking the garlic and tomatoes near the end of the pasta’s cook time, that would be fantastic.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large nonstick sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add the cut tomatoes and stir and sauté them for 2 minutes. Scatter the scallions into the pan, then add the balsamic vinegar and the cayenne pepper all at once. Stir all together. Then very carefully slide in the peach slices and gently stir. Pour in 2/3 cup of the pasta water and stir again. Then pour in the cooked pasta and super extra gently toss everything together. If you need more liquid, add more pasta water a tablespoon or two at a time. I didn’t need it.
Plate, sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan and serve. I went for big thin flat chips of Parmesan, but coarsely grated Parmesan or even Romano would be just fine.
When choosing peaches, look for unblemished fruit with just a bit of give, on the firm side of firm ripe. Take it home and let it ripen in a paper bag on the counter.
Grill marks are lovely, but obtaining them on soft fruits is a bit of work. If you prefer, or don’t have a grill pan, sauté the peach wedges on each side in a regular nonstick pan until they start to brown and caramelize. Again, be cautious—don’t let them get too translucent and soft.
Whole grain pasta has been a bit of a crap shoot in the past, some of it good, but much of it being the culinary equivalent of orthopedic shoes. It’s getting better. If you have a brand you like, go with it. Lately, we’ve been liking Barilla’s version. Regarding the amount of pasta, you might want to cook a whole pound. Then start adding it to the peach mixture and stop when the balance seems right. You may or may not use all of the pasta, and that’s okay.