Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orecchiette with Mozzarella and Tomatoes

My mother-in-law came to visit last week and brought this delicious and simple recipe with her. Like most pastas, it was even better as lunch leftovers the second day. It uses really basic ingredients I usually have on hand, so I'm adding it to my repertoire of "Oh Shit Meals" (as in "Oh, shit! It's 6:00 and I haven't figured out dinner!")

Orecchiette pasta look a little like slightly smooshed pasta shells. I think shells could be used in a pinch, but the orecchiette look a little fancier, sound a little fancier, and maybe hold the sauce a little better? At least that's what we tell ourselves to justify our trips to three different grocery stores to find it. I bought a few extra boxes for the pantry.

Orecchiette with Mozzarella and Tomatoes

1 lb. orecchiette pasta
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 to 5 large roma tomatoes, seeded or
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved or
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Optional: spicy italian chicken sausage

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. When pasta has about 5 minutes left to cook, heat olive oil over medium low heat in a large saute pan. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant and softened. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and heat through, stirring often about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add basil. Add drained pasta directly to the sauce pan and stir to coat. Pour into serving bowl. Add mozzarella and toss to combine. Season to taste and serve.

Optional: If using sausage, start with browning italian sausage in the saute pan. Drain if needed. Then add olive oil and cook garlic. Continue with directions for sauce above.

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