Mozzarella in Beaker, Tomato and Basil
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Mozzarella on a Wooden Rack
Mozzarella on a Wooden Rack
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Recipe Source:

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich,
 2001, Alfred A. Knopf


Mostaccioli with Fresh Basil and Mozzarella
(Mostaccioli alla Caprese)

“Bocconcini, literally ‘little mouthfuls’, are small rounds of fresh mozzarella
that are often sold wherever larger rounds of fresh mozzarella are made. (If
you can find bocconcini made from water buffalo’s milk, they’re even better
for this pasta.) Bocconcini can vary in size from store to store. If yours are
larger than the type called ciliege (cherries), you may want to cut them into
quarters, so they fit neatly on a spoon alongside the pasta. If you can’t find
bocconcini of any type, cut larger pieces of fresh mozzarella into
1-inch cubes.”

Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
for drizzling over the finished pasta if you like
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably
San Marzano) with their liquid, seeded and crushed, or
3 cups peeled, seeded, and diced ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
1 pound mostaccioli or penne pasta
1 pound bocconcini (bite-size fresh mozzarella),
preferably mozzarella di bufala, cut in half
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Scatter the garlic over the
oil and cook, shaking the pan, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in
the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Season lightly with salt, bring to a
boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, stir the pasta into the boiling water. Return
to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10 to 12 minutes.
If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and the pasta, fish
the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it
directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the
pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to
coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed
red pepper if necessary.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mozzarella, grated cheese,
and basil. Serve immediately in warm bowls.


Penne with Cherry Tomatoes,
Basil, and Mozzarella

(Penne alla Caprese in Crudo)

“This uncooked version of the preceding recipe is excellent for those hot
summer months when tomatoes are sweet and exploding with flavor.
I like to eat the pasta hot with room-temperature sauce, but you could just
as well serve it all cold. In that case, toss the tomatoes and pasta while still
 hot, then set them aside until you’re ready to serve them. Finish the pasta
by tossing in the basil and bocconcini and serve.
I can go on detailing the recipe with minimal changes in the ingredient
list or techniques, but what I want to leave with you is not only recipes but
the understanding and hence the liberty and confidence, to deviate from
the recipe path and come up with a version of the plate that reflects your
personal taste and local procedure. When you reach this point, cooking is
truly a joy.”

Makes 6 servings

1 pound ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes
(the ones on the vine are the best),
rinsed, dried, and cut in half
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
for drizzling over the finished pasta
if you like
1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably coarse
Pinch crushed hot red pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound penne
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/2 pound bocconcini (bite-size fresh mozzarella;
see preceding recipe), cut in half

Toss the tomatoes, oil, sea salt, and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Whack the garlic with the side of a knife and toss it into the bowl.
Let marinate at room temperature, tossing once or twice, for 30 minutes.
While the tomatoes are marinating, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil
in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently.
Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10 to 12
minutes. Remove the garlic from the marinated tomatoes and toss in the
basil. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, and toss well to mix. Check the
seasoning, adding salt and more crushed red pepper if necessary. Gently
stir in the bocconcini and serve.

Coarse Sea Salt: The melting of salt is a chemical reaction that draws the
liquid from the tomatoes. The larger the salt crystal, the more liquid it will
draw out. And that’s exactly what we want – more juice to use as sauce for
our pasta.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Sophia Loren's Spaghetti con
Pomodoro Crudo

Summer Pasta with Basil,
Tomatoes and Cheese

Summer Vegetable Pasta

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