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Summer, spring herbs refresh pasta

Escaping the Rogue Valley’s heat wave last week, I returned home from a rafting trip to a garden gone wild.

Lettuce, pepper, eggplant and tomato starts had all doubled in size. And the basil I thought wouldn’t be ready for making into pesto until at least mid-month was poised to bloom.

With spring’s herbs — chives and thyme — still going strong while oregano and parsley gain ground, the situation calls for a simple dish that celebrates the spectrum of verdant flavors. Although it’ll still be weeks before we see the first home-grown cherry tomato, they’re in good supply in grocery stores, and I have some on hand. Blistering the fruits slightly in a hot skillet coaxes out their store-bought sweetness.

If you don’t have a garden or pots of herbs, use whichever you like without feeling pressured to purchase all of these, suggested by Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Pasta With Fresh Italian Herbs

12 ounces dried tubular pasta

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 pinch red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella pearls

Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Cook the pasta according to package instructions; drain, reserving 1/2 cup water.

Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, the basil, oregano, salt and hot pepper flakes; toss well to combine.

Heat remaining oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic; saute for 2 minutes. Add the chives and thyme and saute another minute or two, until tomatoes begin to char and look they’re about to burst.

Add reserved pasta water, a little at a time, and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for an additional minute, then add sauce to bowl with pasta along with the chopped parsley. Toss gently to combine.

Spoon into bowls and top with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.