Only because of Soulard Farmer's Market could I have made this big pot of pasta by spending less than $2 for the non-staple ingredients. I love it. I got a huge bundle of asparagus and a small carton of cherry tomatoes, and mix that with a pantry stocked with spices, and it turned into a delicious and filling meal. I don't know why I was in the mood for asparagus, of all things; probably just because I happened to spot it right after I bought the tomatoes and the potential for a nice color contrast struck me all of a sudden. Well, it turned out to be a tasty decision, regardless. The freshness and simplicity bursts out of this dish. And if you didn't want to bother with the pasta or tomatoes, the asparagus by itself would be a tasty side dish with chicken.
Pasta with Garlic Tomatoes and Balsamic-roasted Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, bottoms chopped off and chopped into1 1/2 inch pieces
4 tbsp. gluten-free balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 carton cherry tomatoes (I think I had about 10 tomatoes), halved
1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil flakes
1/2 - 1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
1 cup brown rice pasta (or gluten-free pasta of your choice)
Cook pasta as directed. If it gets done before the sauce, drain and cover with cold water to prevent it from becoming gummy. When you are ready to mix the sauce into the pasta, drain again.
Preheat the oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the chopped asparagus, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, rosemary, parsley, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a bowl and toss to coat. Place the asparagus on the baking sheet and bake for about 5 - 8 minutes, stirring halfway through and keeping a close eye on it to prevent it from burning. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a sauté pan, melt the 1 1/2 tbsp. of Earth Balance Buttery Spread, and then add the minced garlic. Sauté together for 1 - 2 minutes, and then add the tomatoes and basil flakes. Cover and let heat for about 5 minutes, and then crush the tomatoes a bit with a spoon. Add the 2 remaining tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (more if you want a stronger taste of it), and salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Depending on your own taste, you could also add more rosemary and parsley as well. Continue to cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are falling apart and there is more of a sauce-like consistency. Add the roasted asparagus to the pan and stir, continuing to heat, until the entire mixture is well-coated with sauce and is hot. Add to the pasta and toss to coat.
If your pasta got done early and you were keeping it in cold water, return the pot to the heat just until heated through. If you have a good parmesan cheese substitute, you could serve it with this, but it will taste great on its own, too!