Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baked Pasta with Mozzarella & Tomatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 or 2 dried red chilies, crumbled
3 1/2 pounds of ripe tomatoes or 3 14-ounce cans of plum tomatoes
a large handful of fresh basil leaves
14 ounce dried orecchiette
4 handsful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 5-ounce balls of mozzarella

Optional: 1 T red wine vinegar

Preparing the pasta:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan. Add onion, garlic and chili and slowly fry for about 10 minutes on a medium to low heat until softened but without any color. If using fresh tomatoes, remove the core with the tip of a small knife, plunge them into the boiling water for about 40 seconds until their skins start to come away, then remove with a slotted spoon or sieve and remove the pan from the heat.

Put the tomatoes into a bowl and run cold water over them, then slide the skins off, squeeze out the seeds, and roughly chop. Add the fresh or canned tomatoes to the onion and garlic, with a small glass of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. Put them through a food processor or blender to make a loose sauce. Tear your basil leaves into the sauce and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and a little swig of red wine vinegar.

When the sauce tastes perfect, bring the water back to the boil. Add the orecchiette to the water and cook according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss with half of the tomato sauce and a handful of parmesan. Get a baking pan and rub it with a little olive oil. Layer a little pasta in the pan, followed by some tomato sauce, a handful of grated parmesan and 1 sliced-up mozzarella ball, then repeat these layers until all the ingredients are used, ending with a layer of cheese on top.

Put baking pan into the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden, crisp and bubbling.


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