Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chunky Tomato. Mozzarella and Basil Pasta

My dogs and I have a lot in common. They say that one begins to resemble his or her dog. Well, I think that they begin to resemble us. For example, I have found that my sister's dogs like the things she does, and my dogs like the things I do. And that is when all the trouble starts... Take pasta for example. I love pasta. I adore it. I could eat pasta every day and be a happy woman... and my dogs could eat pasta every day and be happy dogs... So when I make pasta, there never seems to be enough. It's not just the pasta that the pooches seem to relish, but all the various sauces and cheese that go on top of it. You'd think that they would not be into tomato sauce, right? Well you'd be wrong. They adore it, especially when a little mozzarella is mixed in. So when I made this dish recently, there was quite a small commotion in the kitchen.

This wonderful plate of tomato, olive oil, truffle oil, tomato paste, wine, garlic, and basil, combined with fresh mozzarella is one of my favorites and my pooches too.

I love garlic, and I like my sauces garlicky. I have friends and family who do not feel this way, however. So when you are preparing this dish, adjust the use of garlic according to the palettes present!

Chunky Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Pasta

1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes or 1 can of plum tomatoes or a pint and a half of cherry tomatoes.

3 cloves of garlic minced.

4 tablespoons of olive oil.

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, cleaned and chopped

1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella

2 tablespoons organic tomato paste

1 tablespoon truffle oil

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded - or if you're like me more because you like it.

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a pasta pot, add water and salt and bring the water to boil. I don't always blanche my tomatoes, but if you prefer the skin off, you can do so quickly by adding to the boiling water the tomatoes for not more than thirty seconds. Remove from the boiling water with the pasta basket or a slotted spoon. Rinse the tomatoes with cold water immediately and set down. Peel the skins off of the tomatoes. If you're a masochist you can do this with cherry tomatoes, but larger tomatoes might help preserver your sanity. I also just use cherry tomatoes and skip this blanching step. It's worked fine for me. 

 Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook until it is al dente.  Reserve a cup of water.

Take your garlic clove and with the side of a knife crush the garlic clove. Remove the papery cover and mince it if you love garlic.  If you like just a hint of garlic, then crush it and drop it into the sauce. You will remove it before serving and it won't be overpoweringly garlicky. 

Chop your tomatoes, chop or tear your basil. If you're using cherry tomatoes, then you can just slice them in half.  

Take your fresh mozzarella and cut it up into cubes. Once of the biggest problems in making this dish is that the mozzarella cheese often melts into the sauce, especially if you add it to a hot pan. Then you get these big clumps of cheese that are reminiscent of The Blob.  There is one way to reduce this risk: firm up the cheese. And no, it doesn't have to go the gym. To do this, cube the cheese, spread the pieces on a dish, careful that they are not on top of each other. Place the dish in the freezer so the cheese pieces firm up in the cold. You don't want them rock hard. Just firm enough that they will not immediately melt into the hot sauce when added a little later. About five minutes or so in the freezer should do, but keep an eye on them so they come out firm and don't turn into rock blocks.

The next part is fast because you don't want your garlic to burn or your basil to wilt. Add your olive oil to a large sautéing pan and let it warm up on medium heat. Once it is warm, cook the garlic for about thirty seconds. If you find it's cooking too fast, move it off the burner and keep cooking. Add your tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Stir to coat the tomatoes and basil. Add the truffle oil, wine and mozzarella cheese and stir. Add in your pasta and mix the ingredients together. If necessary, add a little of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.

Even though this plate has mozzarella cheese, I always like to add a little grated parmesan reggiano to my pastas. The bite that this cheese gives to the plate is unsurpassed. Grate some parmesan reggiano and set it aside to top off the pasta at the table. 

 Serve up the pasta and sprinkle parmesan reggiano and enjoy... But try to hide it from the dogs. 

In my next post, I will show you how a pasta hound like me has turned to spaghetti squash as the "go to" pasta substitute. Just delicious and you won't miss the real thing. Plus you'll get lots of good nutrition and no carbs! And the dogs also love it! Stay tuned. 

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