Summer may be winding down but the summer produce isn’t letting up. Yep, I’m back with another peachy recipe and this one brought a friend, another summertime stunner – the tomato. Together they make this near-perfect, patio-friendly nosh I’m calling Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells. I’ll tell you why that title is flawed a little later. But for now, let’s just focus on this fresh garlic-riddled pasta sauce and those buttery al dente shells. When dinner looks this good, who cares what it’s called.Jump to Recipe
Bruschetta – a dish so popular that graces nearly every appetizer menu in North America. Yes, whether your dining Italian or not, you’re liable to see it listed. But do we know the real bruschetta? And no, this isn’t some pompous test to see if you can pronounce it the proper Italian way. I’m questioning whether we, here in Canada, know the dish at all. I often find that the foreign dishes we fold into ubiquity in this country are mere shadows of their former selves. We alter them so much that the familiarity we think we have with them is completely false.
I had a hunch that we had done the same to bruschetta, so I went on an Internet hunt to determine what bruschetta actually is. Now, I did not do this in the service of today’s Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells. Oh no, this dish is very much in the spirit of the Anglicized version I grew up on. I just looked it up because I was curious and I thought you might be as well.
Well, my hunch turned out to be correct. The defining ingredients of bruschetta are as follows: grilled bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Tomatoes do not a bruschetta make. If this isn’t a shock to you, you are far more cultured than I. This whole time I thought the most bruschetta aspect of bruschetta was the marinated tomato topping. But no, the most bruschetta thing about bruschetta is the grilled bread. The toppings vary widely from region to region. And yes, tomato is a very popular bruschetta topping throughout Italy, but it isn’t a defining feature. I mean, I may be overstating my surprise, but my mind was more than a little bit blown.
So, it turns out today’s Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells has no business bearing the “bruschetta” moniker due to its utter lack of toast. Nothing like finding out you’ve been wrong about something your entire life. I find it bizarrely liberating. Mostly because I live in a constant state of uncertainty and it’s nice to know there is a good reason. Adult or not we’re all just slugging it out in a world so vast we will never fully understand it. Does that sound bleak? It shouldn’t. I think it’s very freeing to admit you have very few answers. It at least leaves one very open to learning. But enough about not-so-rude awakenings and foggy culinary titles, let’s talk about today’s Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells.
Now, I know we’ve established that this dish had no business being called Bruschetta but I’m going to forge ahead with that title because, well, I can’t think of anything more descriptive. Yeah, not a bright day for personal creativity. Anyway, the sauce for today’s pasta is a peachy adaptation of the bruschetta topping my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. This sauce requires minimal skill and zero cooking time, so aside from boiling pasta, this is essentially a no-cook meal. A very good thing when you find yourself sweating while standing still.
It goes without saying that the quality of this Peach Bruschetta sauce relies very heavily on the quality of the produce you use. There are very few places to hide in this sauce, so take a few extra moments to select the best peaches and tomatoes you can. From there, this recipe is nothing more than chopping and stirring with a side of waiting. You simply plunk onions, garlic, tomatoes, peaches, and white beans in a bowl and coat them with an olive oil/balsamic solution and wait for the mixture to pass the threshold between good and freakin’ delicious.
As for the wee little shells beneath the non-bruschetta/peach bruschetta, I chose to give them an Alfredo-ish or Alfredo-lite treatment. Whatever you want to call it the shells have it because they aren’t supposed to be the star of the show. When you have a very powerfully flavored sauce perched on top of the pasta, you don’t want a power struggle between the two. But you also don’t want a limp, flavorless pasta. Even if it’s playing a supporting role, it still needs umami, a superior mouthfeel, and the perfect balance of salt. I think these Alfredo-esque parmesan shells deliver all that in spades.
So, that about does it for this Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells. It may not be a bruschetta in the truest sense of the word but it is truly delicious in every sense of that word.
Peach Bruschetta with Parmesan Shells
- 4 large peaches pitted and diced
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes diced
- 1 (540mL, 15 fl oz) can white kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 white onion diced
- 1 (200g, 7oz) tub mini bocconcini drained
- 6 cloves garlic minced, divided
- 1/4 cup olive oil divided
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade
- Fresh ground pepper
- 300g, 10.5oz pasta shells
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded, heaping
- Place the peaches, tomatoes, onion, kidney beans, bocconcini and 5 cloves of the garlic in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the garlic, balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the crushed red pepper flakes. Pour the mixture over the peaches, tomatoes, etc. and add the basil and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat. Taste and season with salt accordingly.
- Cover the mixture and transfer to the fridge. Let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight. Take the mixture out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to serving. This will take the chill off of the sauce.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to the package's directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain and rinse the pasta and set aside.
- In a large deep skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the last clove of garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the pasta, butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano to the pan. While stirring constantly, add as much of the pasta water as you need to form a thin, glossy sauce. Take the pasta off of the heat once all the shells are coated. Finish the pasta with fresh ground pepper.
- Divide the pasta among six bowls or plates. Spoon the bruschetta over top, sprinkle with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and tuck in.