AS PART OF OUR SEMI-DELUDED PLAN to have friends over this weekend, we served homemade rolls along with two pastas. (Our wonderful guests brought veggies and desserts including a chocolate layer caked called “Tall, Dark and Handsome”. And yes, we’re inviting them back again ASAP.) This was one of the pasta dishes–and by far the best one. A recipe, a technique really, I learned from a friend in Rome, it’s the simplest, tastiest way to welcome our newfound sunshine for spring. Also, kids like it too.
Actually it’s a simple enough dish that if kids DON’T like everything in their bowls, they can just yank out the offending items, set ’em aside and carry on with dropping half their dinner on the floor one forkful at a time. Business as usual.
Part 1: The Strategy
We’ve been working with the kids lately on what to do when such a situation arises. Let’s say someone sets a plate full of pasta in front of you and it’s plumb with juicy cherry tomatoes–and you don’t like tomatoes. What are your options? Phoebe, who is four, will tell you that any of the following are possible, and hopefully all of them will really happen:
- Take a bite, just try it because what if this is different from something you’ve had before?
- If you still don’t like it, just stop eating that ingredient. Try the other stuff.
- No need to start shouting, “BUT I DON’T LIKE TOMATOES!”
- When your host is ready for your critique, give it a thumbs up, middle or down.
- Say “thank you” anyway.
Now for the how-tos. There are only a few ingredients and because it’s such a spartan spread, everything has to be really tasty. Or as my beloved Ina Garten says, “really good“. This is not the time to skimp on the special olive oil. What’s involved: cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, pasta, bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), salt, pepper and lots of the best extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on. My friend Giuseppe lives in Rome and actually grows glorious rows of olives at his country villa…where his family produces their own olive oil. You don’t have to do that, but you can get yourself a bottle (or 3) here and even though it’s expensive, it’s the most delicious money you’ll spend all spring.
Either way, you just toss it all together, allowing the heat of the pasta to wilt the basil and tomatoes, and gently start melting the cheese. Drizzle on that EVOO, sprinkle with salt and a pinch of pepper and just dig in.
Simple Spring Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella
- 1/2 box of any small pasta such as shells, penne, and so on (whole-wheat blend or plain)
- 1 pint very sweet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup fresh basil torn or sliced into ribbons
- 1 cup mini mozzarella balls or bocconcini, cut in half
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook the pasta according to instructions, keeping it al dente. I usually undercook by 1-2 minutes from what the instructions say. Toss all the remaining ingredients together and serve.