Here’s another pasta dish I learned while working at Fork in Philadelphia. As soon as the Branch Creek cherry tomatoes — the sweetest, most flavorful cherry tomatoes I had ever tasted — arrived each summer, this dish would appear as a first course on the menu. And it was a huge hit, a perfect start to a summer dinner.
It’s simple to prepare: Sauté cherry tomatoes with orecchiette, ciliegene mozzarella and basil pesto. Add some fresh basil just before plating along with some shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh cracked pepper. Yum yum yum. Toasted pine nuts, I think, would make a nice addition to this pasta as well.
Note: I normally avoid buying jarred sauces, tapenades, pestos, etc. but I have an amazing Italian deli in my town that sells enormous jars of delectable pesto at a very reasonable price. It’s hard to pass up and makes for very easy preparations. So, if you have a good local source for pesto, by all means use it in this dish — everything else will take minutes to prepare. Here’s the recipe I use for basil pesto, when I make it from scratch.
I am anxious to try the recipe here with roasted red peppers substituted for the tomatoes and goat cheese for the mozzarella … stay tuned.Print
Inspired by a recipe we made at Fork every summer as soon as the Branch Creek tomatoes began arriving at the restaurant.
Notes: Toasted pine nuts or walnuts would be a nice addition here.
- 1/2 lb. orecchiette pasta
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lb. (or more) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons basil pesto, plus more to taste
- 1/2 lb. ciliegene (small balls) mozzarella
- fresh basil*
- shaving of Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
- fresh cracked black pepper
* If you have small tender leaves, leave them whole; otherwise, chiffonade the basil.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season well with kosher salt. Add pasta and cook till al dente, about 9 minutes or about 2 minutes less than what package instructions suggest. (Pasta will continue cooking as it is tossed with the other ingredients so it’s best to undercook it a little bit.) Drain pasta, reserving a cup or more of the pasta cooking liquid. Do not rinse.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds. Add pasta and pesto. Cook 1 minute, stirring to coat pasta with the pesto. Taste. Adjust with more salt, pepper, pesto, or a few tablespoon of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to make it saucier. Add the mozzarella. Stir to incorporate. Add the fresh basil and remove from the heat.
- Divide pasta among bowls and sprinkle each with some fresh shavings of Parmigiano. Crack the pepper over top and serve.