Thursday, March 19, 2015

Easy Peasy Summer Pasta

I'm no chef, but I can usually whip something up in a jiffy when hungry hordes descend upon me. One fail-safe recipe that I've relied on time and time again calls for a few ingredients I generally have lying around in the fridge and involves a minimum of cooking (only boiling up the spaghetti). If you don't want to read my long-winded story about how I came upon this dish, then just scroll down to the actual recipe itself!

Yummilicious pasta that hardly requires any cooking
Like I said, I'm not a great cook and really don't cook all that much, given that I live alone and make do with something simple like a salad, noodle soup or sandwich. But like many others who love eating, I do enjoy watching food shows on TV and reading food magazines as well. Many years ago, I came upon an article that featured either Pavorotti or Francis Ford Coppola (I can't remember who it was but they somehow remind me of each other) on his farm. The opera singer (or Godfather director) said that his favorite dish, being Italian, was a simple pasta made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, garlic, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. He said it involved hardly any cooking at all because it was a summer dish, and hence was light.

I was struck by the simplicity of the dish itself and the yumminess of all those ingredients. Immediately I made the summer pasta and it was delicious. I made it often and because I soon knew it by heart (and there were also so few ingredients) I didn't keep the recipe or the magazine. I've tried to trace it on the internet but have had no luck. It really is so simple that it's practically idiot-proof. Best of all, it doesn't involve hours of slaving over a hot stove. While I do give amounts to use in the recipe below, you can wing it, adding more tomatoes, cheese, garlic or basil if you have a preference for any of those ingredients.

Let the ingredients mingle to bring out the flavor
I have tried it with different kinds of pasta, but decided that somehow spaghetti works the best. You can make the sauce ahead of time and just leave it for awhile at room temperature to let all the ingredients mingle to bring out the flavor even more. Usually, if I'm pressed for time, I can start the pot of water boiling and throw in the spaghetti while I'm chopping up the other ingredients, all in under half an hour (chop fast!) You can use any kind of tomatoes you want but they must be fresh. I prefer my tomatoes a bit crunchy so I pick the firmer ones, and like to mix in some cherry tomatoes for a bit of sweetness. Of course, the ones on the vine are awesome, but more expensive.

Potted basil goes a long way
Instead of buying a bag of basil from the supermarket, I usually get a pot of the basil plant. I can re-pot this into a bigger pot and it'll usually grow a bit, giving me enough basil to last a while. I used to be afraid of using too much oil, but hey, olive oil is good for you, so I add it liberally, sometimes even after I've mixed the whole pasta dish together.

Only a few ingredients are required
Easy Peasy Summer Pasta

Ingredients (enough for 4)

300 g tomatoes, roughly chopped
200 g mozzarella cheese, chopped up into cubes (slightly smaller than 1 cm)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 small bunch of fresh basil, chopped finely
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
300 g of spaghetti

Set a large pot of water to boil and add a liberal amount of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and stir occasionally so that it doesn't clump together.
Mix all the other chopped ingredients together with the olive oil, salt and black pepper.
Test the spaghetti for doneness (usually about 8 minutes).
When cooked, drain the spaghetti and add to the chopped ingredients.
Mix well and serve immediately.

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