Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.
This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!
Okay, now that I’ve got that out in the open, here’s the backstory: I picked this recipe from Food52.com because I needed something to use up some extra anchovy fillets I had leftover from something else (and I can never just throw stuff like that away). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but by the time the sauce was simmering on the stove I could tell from the aroma that I had a winner. The anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make a complex sauce that doesn’t taste particularly fishy or tomato-y, but still tastes incredible– it’s all that natural monosodium glutamate, which makes for some amazing umami flavor. A generous pinch of chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon brighten things up for a nicely balanced sauce. In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend it.
So apparently a year or two ago, this recipe (or a variation thereof) swept the internet with its simplicity and deliciousness, and I just missed it. But I discovered it recently and have promptly added it to my slate of weeknight dinners, because it’s just that easy and just that good. Basically, you chuck a block of feta and some cherry tomatoes into a baking pan, roast them for a bit, then toss in some cooked pasta and basil and you’re basically done.
With a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and some garlic, the finished dish is pretty fantastic, even if it’s not the most attractive thing in the world. The feta is creamy and salty, the tomatoes are bright, and you get an extra kick from the pepper to go along with the slightly sharp garlic (it’s barely cooked so it retains that sharpness). I will totally be making this over and over again!
I used farfalle, but any pasta shape would work pretty well here, I think. Just make sure there’s enough space in your roasting pan to add and toss your pasta, or you lose some of the convenience!