Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quick Tomato-Basil Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella

Bored with your usual pasta and red sauce? We were, so we came up with this simple spin in which fresh mozzarella tempers the heat of spicy chili flakes. Here’s what we discovered:

Test Kitchen Discoveries

* Combine canned crushed and diced tomatoes for a rich flavor and thick texture.
* Flavor the sauce simply with red pepper flakes and minced garlic. Cook the pepper flakes along with the garlic in extra-virgin olive oil to intensify their flavor.
* Use fresh mini balls of mozzarella. If you can’t find the small balls, larger balls can be cut into small cubes. Low-moisture mozzarella, the shrink-wrapped stuff, won’t taste nearly as good in this dish.
* Liberally season the water in which the pasta is cooked; otherwise the pasta will taste bland. We recommend 1 tablespoon of salt per gallon of water.

Serves 4
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic , minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
5 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Table salt
1 pound campanelle or fusilli pasta
8 ounces fresh mini mozzarella balls , drained and cut in half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in medium saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes, bring to simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons basil, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain pasta, and transfer back to pot. Stir in sauce and remaining tablespoon oil, and cook over medium heat until heated through (adding reserved water if pasta seems dry), about 1 minute. Stir in mozzarella and season with salt. Serve, sprinkling with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and Parmesan.

from America's Test Kitchen e-mail

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