I've written before of my favorite "go-to" pasta dinner — Aglio e Olio. I'm now going to share a very close second — Roma Ditalini with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil.
What started out as a favorite summertime dish a few years ago has now evolved into a favorite winter, spring and fall dish. It's simple. The ingredients are fresh. There's ooey gooey cheese involved (a must), and cooking the meal always makes my entire kitchen smell like a fine Italian restaurant — it's fragrant beyond words. Without fail, I have to pour myself a glass of white wine half-way through the process (or maybe a tad earlier), just to complete the experience.
This recipe originated with my girl, Giada. She had a fancy name for it ("little thimbles sciue sciue") -- one I could never quite figure out how to pronounce. Over the years, I've tweaked it some, but Giada still deserves full credit. It used to require a bit of extra effort to find the ditalini pasta, but I've discovered that most grocery stores now carry it; however, if you can't find ditalini, substitute any small tube-shaped pasta, such as pennette.
Oh, and leftovers the next day are divine.
So pour yourself a nice, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc (my vino of choice with this dish), raise your glass to Ms. De Laurentiis, and get chopping.
- 4 cups cooked ditalini pasta
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 5 Roma tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced into small cubes
- 8 ounces cold fresh mozzarella, drained, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon course salt
- Parmigiano Reggiano curls, for garnish
- basil leaves, for garnish
ProcessCook pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often to prevent sticking, about 8 minutes. Set aside in colander.
Dice tomatoes into small cubes and place in medium-sized bowl. Add course salt and let sit while preparing the remainder of the recipe. The salt will draw out the juice from the tomatoes, ultimately adding a moist texture and seasoning to the pasta.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute (being careful not to burn the garlic). Add the tomatoes and saute just until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta and remove from heat. Add the cheese and basil, and toss to coat. Spoon the pasta into bowls and use a vegetable or cheese peeler to top dish with curls of Parmigiano Reggiano. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.