It is April. And it snowed last week. BUT the weather forecast is calling for 70s this week and I’m dreaming of warm days so we broke out our favorite summer pasta dish tonight. This hits the trifecta: delicious, easy and beloved by everyone. While our oldest boy LOVES tomatoes and cheese, he doesn’t like either of these warm (cooked/melty) and this pasta solves all of these problems. If you just follow the directions and make this you’ll turn out with a warm dish (how it is meant to be served), but if pasta needs to be hot for you just zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds OR if you’re looking for an awesome pasta salad to serve cold, throw it in the fridge for an hour. Doesn’t matter how you serve it, it will be a winner!
One note on ingredients: like most things, the fresher the better. Straight from the garden tomatoes = winner. If that’s not happening tonight throw in a little sugar (details below). Handmade buffalo mozzarella = drool inducing. If you do get this great stuff, skip the freezing step below. But if you’re serving the Costco log like us tonight, freeze the cheese. For real.
Here we go!
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon (we just squeeze a full lemon) [kid job!]
1 small garlic clove, minced (we loooove garlic so do 2 cloves but don’t do more than that. Since this is uncooked it’s powerful)
1 shallot, minced fine (…or if someone forgot to buy one a red onion will do)
Salt and ground black pepper
For the Pasta:
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (we always just use 3. Coring and seeding really matters to prevent this from being too liquidy)
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (we use a full 16 oz log because so much gets eaten in the prep stage…) [kid job!]
1 pound penne (any short tubular or curly pasta will do)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar (see note above)
1. Whisk oil, 2-4 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside. The longer you marinate the more flavorful. You need at least 30 minutes for good flavor. We go for 45 if we’re not in a rush.
2. While tomatoes are marinating, place cubed mozzarella on plate or cutting board (fleible plastic ones work well for this) and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.
3. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.
4. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately
Serving tonight with a good & cheap bottle of Walla Walla wine!
Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated