- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

When a friend and fellow author, Sara Perry, told me about her latest cookbook, I knew I had to have a copy. “Everything Tastes Better With Garlic” (Chronicle Books) features one of my favorite ingredients in every recipe.

As soon as I bought it, I began marking recipes to try, but one dish in particular, pasta with roasted tomato, garlic and fresh mozzarella, jumped off the page. It was made with farfalle (bow-tie pasta) topped with a piquant roasted tomato sauce and bits of fresh mozzarella.

I loved the simplicity of the dish and that the sauce called for fresh tomatoes, a seasonal item at its prime right now.

Another bonus was that the sauce could be made several days ahead, up to three months, if frozen. In addition, this tempting, meatless main course sounded like the perfect answer to one of my frequent conundrums: what to serve when entertaining vegetarian friends.

Although the sauce takes more than an hour to cook, it is not complicated. Garlic, which figures prominently in the flavor palette, is roasted slowly along with tomatoes and basil bathed in olive oil and seasoned with hot red pepper flakes, capers and anchovy paste.

At serving time, the pasta is cooked and spooned into shallow bowls, then topped with the deep red melange of roasted tomatoes and garlic. Snowy white cubes of mozzarella and a dusting of Parmesan cheese round out the garnishes. I add fresh basil sprigs to provide a burst of green to the finished product.

Even my guests on diets ate this colorful summer entree with abandon and asked for the recipe — a sure sign of success.

A green salad dressed in vinaigrette and a crusty peasant loaf made nice accompaniments.

For dessert, sliced peaches drizzled with honey and topped with scoops of vanilla ice cream was an easy finale.

Pasta with roasted tomato, garlic and fresh mozzarella

This recipe is from “Everything Tastes Better With Garlic,” by Sara Perry.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 to 7 large garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

6 to 8 medium ripe tomatoes (3 pounds), cored and cut in eighths

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus several sprigs for optional garnish

½ teaspoon coarse salt, preferably kosher, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon small capers

1½ teaspoons anchovy paste

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) or fusilli (corkscrew) pasta

1 ball (about 4 ounces) fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

In a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish, combine olive oil, garlic and hot red pepper flakes. Add tomatoes and gently toss.

Roast in preheated 375-degree oven, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Stir in chopped basil and ½ teaspoon salt, and continue to roast for 15 minutes.

Stir in capers and anchovy paste; continue to roast until tomatoes darken and the juices concentrate, 25 to 40 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes.) Set aside. (The sauce can be made up to 2 hours ahead and left to stand at room temperature. Or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days; freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, reheat over medium-low heat.)

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Using plenty of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente (tender but firm to the bite). This will probably take about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain well and divide pasta among 4 warm, shallow bowls.

To serve, spoon about 1/3 cup of the sauce along the center of each serving. Arrange mozzarella cubes along either side of the sauce on the plain pasta.

Sprinkle each serving with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garnish each with a basil sprig, if desired. At the table, season with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings.


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