Summertime finds many of us constantly on the go, and busy schedules make quick and easy weekday dinners a must for most.
Hence, you can't go wrong with a pasta dish. Boil the water and add pasta, cook and drain. Add some sauteed vegetables to the hot pasta and you're all set. Toss together a fresh garden salad while the pasta is cooking, and you have a meal in 30 minutes or less.
Today's recipe is one such easy summertime dish that combines fresh basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
Lots of fresh shards of basil are mixed in this pasta dish. An easy way to cut the basil is to stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cylinder. Thinly slice the cylinder on the diagonal. Be sure to slice it just before mixing it in. Basil bruises easily and the leaves will darken once cut.
Today's dish also features grape tomatoes, another summer favorite. These little sweeties are sauteed with garlic in olive oil. Sauteing until they almost burst chars them a little on the outside and intensifies their flavor.
The addition of one of my pantry staples, marinated artichoke hearts, makes up the sauce component of this dish.
Jarred marinated artichokes are typically marinated in oil, vinegar and some spices. You can use some or all of the marinating liquid to make up the sauce in this recipe. The dish isn't dripping in sauce; rather, the sauce is just enough to coat the pasta.
Finally, the pasta is rounded out with fresh mozzarella, often labeled as bocconcini. The fresh mozzarella has a much softer texture than regular mozzarella and has a fresh, sweet taste.
Fresh mozzarella is sold in small spheres (about the size of a large cherry) or bigger ones (about the size of a plum) packaged in whey or water in plastic containers.
It's also sold in a log shape or round shape, about the size of a baseball, wrapped in plastic.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound short pasta such as campanelle
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry
1/2 jar (6 ounces) marinated quartered artichoke hearts with some liquid
8-ounce container fresh mozzarella (cherry size)
1/2 cup shredded basil leaves plus small leaves for garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a generous tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, just slightly firm to the bite. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and saute about 5 minutes or until they just begin to burst. Add the artichokes with some liquid from the jar (about 1/4 cup). Cook another 5 minutes to heat through.
Place the cooked pasta in a large serving bowl. Scrape the tomatoes and artichokes into the pasta and toss. If the mixture seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.