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~ Orecchiette Pasta w/Basil-Tomato-Garlic Sauce ~

PICT0012In the late Summer, when fresh basil and garden tomatoes are plentiful, this is an exceptional dish to serve. I want to say I worked really, really hard to come up with it, but I did not.  Joe and I will be living in this house 16 years come this November 1st.  The very first Spring after we moved in, in 1997, while I was decorating my dream house, Joe was planting his dream garden. Near the end of August, I was affectionately referring to him as "Mr. Greenjeans", and his garden, "the basil and tomato farm".  One afternoon, when faced with an overwhelming amount of both, I decided to come up with a quick sauce, that I could puree in my food processor, in batches, and refrigerate. My intent was to make the sauce ahead of serving it and cook/reheat it the next day.  To my glee, it was so delicious, I decided to toss it uncooked and chilled into warm, buttered pasta.  This was the day I became a worshipper of:

Chilled Garden-Fresh Sauce on Warm Pasta?  Be Still My Heart!  

PICT0009There comes a day in every gardener's life when he/she knows it's time to pick the basil.  Today was that day.  After two days of rain, this mornings sunshine revealed perfect basil.  Deep green in color with large, lush, leaves.  Also, our 12 or so plants are just short of flowering, which means it is time to use it or loose it.  When this happens, in Melanie's Kitchen, I am compelled to cook tonights dinner before resorting to pesto making!

PICT0002A bit about orecchiette:  Hailing from Southern Italy, its name comes from its shape.  In Italian, "orecchio" means "ear", and, "etto" means "small", and, it does in fact resemble "little ears". When made from scratch, small, sliced discs of dough are pressed over the thumb to form an ear or hat shape (and this technique requires another blog post).  I'm using dried, store-bought orecchiette today.  In the event you can't find it, small pasta shells would be my recommended substitution.  Why?  Because both shapes are the perfect vessel to harbor this thin flavorful sauce:

PICT0006For the sauce (this is twice the amount you'll need for the pasta, or, enough for two meals):

3  ounces fresh basil leaves, no stems

2  pounds cored and coarsely chopped ripe, garden-fresh tomatoes

1 1/2  ounces coarsely chopped garlic cloves

1/4  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4  cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the orecchiette:

1  pound orecchiette pasta (small shells may be stubstituted)

1  tablespoon sea salt (for seasoning the water in stockpot)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, for topping

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for topping

fresh basil leaves, for garnish

PICT0003~ Step 1.  To prepare the sauce, prep the basil, tomatoes and garlic as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with the steel blade as you work.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes.



~ Step 2.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, finely mince the ingredients.  Do not over process. You do not want a puree.

PICT0008~ Step 3. Through the feed tube with motor running, gradually add the oil, in a thin stream, until the mixture is smooth and emulsified.




~ Step 4.  You will have about 5 cups of pretty, pink and green sauce.  Transfer sauce to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, thickened and flavors have developed, 4-6 hours or overnight.

Note:  This is twice as much sauce as you will need for 1 pound of orecchiette, but who wouldn't want enough for leftovers the next day?

PICT0003~ Step 5.  To prepare the orecchiette, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the sea salt.  Sprinkle in the orecchiette and cook until al dente, this brand took 12-13 minutes.







~ Step 6.  Drain well and return pasta to still warm stockpot and return stockpot to still warm stovetop.  Add the butter, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and salt. Using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until butter is melted and pasta is evenly coated.




~ Step 7.  Cover the pot and let the pasta rest, about 10-15 minutes, until it has absorbed all of the butter and all of the spices.

The warm pasta is ready to be portioned into serving bowls and served with the chilled sauce drizzled on top of it, NOT tossed into it!  Top each with a sprinkling of grated Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, freshly ground sea salt, peppercorn blend and serve!

PICT0016When I want to turn this flavorful vegetarian side-dish into a main-course, I almost always serve it with freshly grilled shrimp.  While the pasta is resting,  I place some peeled and deveined shrimp on skewers, brush them with some EVOO and place them on a very hot grill pan on my stovetop.  These are jumbo shrimp and they take about 3 minutes per side!



Orecchiette Pasta w/Basil-Tomato-Garlic Sauce:  Recipe yields 4-6 side-servings or 2-4 main course servings and 5 cups of sauce (enough sauce for two meals).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 8-quart stockpot; colander; cheese grater; wooden skewers (optional); grill pan (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0168e81254dc970c-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my "hot and cold" pasta recipes (which is also vegetarian), check out my recipe for ~ Dad's Mac 'n Cheese, or:  What I Cook Just for Me ~ in Categories 3, 4, 12, 14 or 20.  It tastes great with grilled shrimp too!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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Thank-you so much for the 'feedback' Robin! Around here, we like it better than pesto!

Made the sauce this week. My family loved it. It will be a new "go to" recipe.

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