Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pasta alla Tuscana

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This pasta dish comes together in about 15 minutes start to finish, and it just makes me happy each time I have it. Tender angel hair pasta is blanketed in the sweet tomatoes bursting with their juices, flavored simply with the garlic and olive oil and finished off with ribbons of sweet-spicy basil and nuggets of melting fresh mozzarella.  

Optional changes - This particular dish is vegetarian, however in the past I have added a handful of crumbled bacon (or pancetta) to the dish.  You could certainly add in some grilled chicken strips if your family balks at the idea of a meatless dish.... or add in some fresh shrimp in the last couple of minutes!!  I have also had this in the past with fresh baby spinach.  I just add the spinach in the beginning while everything is sauteing, and  they wilt right down, adding lots of nutrition and great color.  And lastly, it is fairly common for Tuscan pastas to be served all'arrabbiata... which means spicy!  So you could add in some red pepper flakes or a minced jalapeno if you want to go that route.

Italian cuisine is characterized by its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region; however many dishes that were once regional, have proliferated with variations throughout the country.  Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine, with many dishes having peasant origins.  Having visited the area a couple times myself, something that becomes immediately clear is the theme of Italian chefs using simple, seasonal, top quality ingredients.
Click for Printable Recipe     or Watch the video presentation here!

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint of mixed yellow and red grape heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 - 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced 
  • seasoning - kosher salt, cracked black pepper, 1 tsp dried basil
  • fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (quantity up to you!)
  • a handful of fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons 
  • 1/2 box angel hair pasta

Step-by-Step:
Get a pot of water started for the pasta, because this comes together VERY quickly.  
Saute tomatoes and garlic in hot olive oil for a couple of minutes.
2 - 3 cloves of minced garlic, EVOO, grape tomatoes
 Season simply with kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil.
kosher salt to taste
black pepper to taste
dried basil, maybe 1 tsp or so.
Add the angel hair pasta to the boiling water.  These will only cook for about 4 minutes.  At this point, turn the tomatoes down all the way to the lowest setting.  They are done.
half a box of angel hair pasta
Add the ribbons of basil to the tomatoes.  You don't want to add fresh herbs in during the cooking process because they will lose flavor.  We are adding them just add the end, where they will perfume the dish and get warmed by the sauce.  The juice from the tomatoes and the olive oil create the "sauce" for the dish.  If it seems to need a little more, add a little extra olive oil and cook on low a couple of minutes for the flavors to marry.  But this is a very light and simply dressed pasta.  It shouldn't be dripping in sauce.
handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Drain the pasta and serve the tomato sauce over the fresh, hot pasta.  Add some chunks of fresh mozzarella to the sauce and let them start melting.  Garnish with a little extra basil ribbons and some fresh cracked pepper.
      


 Written Directions
Get a pot of water started for the pasta, because this comes together VERY quickly:   Saute tomatoes and garlic in hot olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Season them simply with kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil.  Now add the angel hair pasta to the boiling water - these will only cook for about 4 minutes.  At this point, turn the tomatoes down all the way to the lowest setting.  They are done.  Add the ribbons of basil to the tomatoes.  You don't want to add fresh herbs in during the cooking process because they will lose flavor.  We are adding them just add the end, where they will perfume the dish and get warmed by the sauce.  The juice from the tomatoes and the olive oil create the "sauce" for the dish.  If it seems to need a little more, add a little extra olive oil and cook on low a couple of minutes for the flavors to marry.  But this is a very light and simply dressed pasta.  It shouldn't be dripping in sauce. 
Drain the pasta and serve the tomato sauce over the fresh, hot pasta.  Add some chunks of fresh mozzarella to the sauce and let them start melting.  Garnish with a little extra basil ribbons and some fresh cracked pepper.


Want more great pasta dishes?  Visit my Recipe Index for lots of ideas with step-by-step tutorials.  
As my little ones say "Eat noodles and be happy." 

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