pre-cheese and basil
This is a simple, healthy recipe that is just as tasty as anything you’ll eat at an Italian restaurant (and about half the cost). I created this recipe in a desire to get something delicious, but healthy. What I came up with is water-watering. There is no meat involved, just lots of good, fresh ingredients. If you just absolutely NEED meat, go ahead and add some cooked Italian sausage and/or shrimp to the recipe for an even more hearty meal.
What You Need:
- cherry tomatoes (1 pk)
- 100% virgin olive oil (I normally use oil from Tuscany, but it may be interesting to try it with oils from other places like Greece or California) 2 tablespoons
- 2 cloves garlic
- uncooked (wheat or regular) penne pasta (1/3 box or 1/2 bag)
- 1 cup grated cheese mix (parmesan, mozzarella, pepperjack – or any three white cheeses)
- fresh basil leaves, diced (optional)
- sea salt
- cracked black pepper
- tomato basil pasta sauce or regular tomato sauce (1/4 cup)
- Large skillet
- medium sized pot
- spatula or large mixing spoon
- knife, cutting board
- cheese grater (highly suggested)
- measuring cup (optional)
- strainer (optional)
What You Do:
1) The first thing you need to do is half your cherry tomatoes. Well, first wash them and then half them. When you cut them in half, it’ll make your life easier if you cut them down the length instead of around the width of the tomatoes. The reason for this is that the tomatoes will take a little while to cook down into a sauce, and if you’re anything like me, you hate waiting. So cutting them down the length will allow them to cook faster – a little bit. Thank me later. (3 mins)
2) Either just before you cut the tomatoes, or sometime midway through your decapitation fun, go ahead and measure your olive oil and garlic into the skillet. You can add a little more olive oil later, if necessary, once you put the tomatoes in. Also, make sure that you try your best to spread your garlic around the pan. Be careful. It will pop on you. Stop being a baby. You’ll know it’s hot when.. Ouch! I just got popped. (1 min or less)
3) Maybe before doing all of this, you might want to drop that pasta into a pot of heavily salted boiling water. Make sure you salt that thing. It should taste like salt water, kind of. It helps to clean the pasta and heat the water faster. The pasta will be dry when you put it in there, so you’ll know it’s done when the color is a pale yellow and it’s squishy. They’ll also grow a little bit. This shouldn’t take more than 10 mins before it’s cooked. If you get scared that you may be overcooking your pasta, don’t worry. Just take it off the burner and let it sit for a while. You’ll have time to finish cooking them in the sauce later.
4) Now that you’ve got your pasta boiling, and your tomatoes all cut nicely, your oil-garlic mixture should be nice and hot. Go ahead and drop (be careful) those tomatoes into your hot oil and let them sit for a while. Well, don’t drop them – scoop them in there so that you don’t make a mess. Stir them every few minutes until your nose gets excited and the tomatoes get soft and wrinkly. This may take about 10 mins or more depending on your stove.
5) While your pasta is boiling and your tomato concoction is brewing (make sure you stir it), it may be a good time to go ahead and cut up your fresh basil. You can cut it however you like – small chunk, long strips – doesn’t matter. Just make sure you throw away the stems. Don’t want that getting in there. Oh, and I hope you washed the basil off in water first. Oops. Leave it to the side.
6) Also, now is as good a time as any to grate your cheese. You can choose to do this later, once your pasta is done if you like. I just like having things ready to go. Besides, you’re just standing around anyway. You might as well get to work. Take your blocks of mozzarella and pepper jack and grate them into a measuring cup. Add your parmesan. Yeah sure you can use pre-shredded cheese, but it won’t be the same. It just won’t. You should end up with a cup, or more, of delicious cheese. If you don’t have a measuring cup, then it’s about the amount of a half-full glass of juice. It’s a lot. I know. If you’re lactose intolerant or some other stuff, then I’m sorry you have to miss out on this. But I promise the pasta will be awesome without it – mostly. Leave your cheese mix to the side. Submerge the grater in some water. (When you have to wash dishes later, you’ll thank me dearly for telling you to do this.)
7) Remember that pasta/tomato sauce I told you to get? Good. Add that to your tomatoes that are cooking on the stove. Stir it in slowly. Add a little pepper. Bam! You do this so that your sauce can actually be a sauce. I used to make it without this step, which was fine, but I like to have some sauciness to my sauce – just a little bit. I would not add any more than what I suggested, but you can add less. Let it cook for about 5 mins. Stir. (This would also be the point where you add your cooked meat, if you want meat.)
8) Now, your pasta should be boiled. Strain the boiled water into the sink. Make sure no pastas try to escape. Mark my words, they will try to escape with the water. Make sure all of the water is gone! You don’t want water getting into your pasta. It’ll make it runny. No one like runny pasta. Once the pasta sauce is hot and bubbly, add your drained pasta to the sauce. Mix it up. Stir. Let it sit on the fire. 10 mins.
9) Turn down the burner a few notches. Add your basil to the pasta, and pepper, and mix it in. Add your cheese to the top of pasta and let it melt. You’ll know when the cheese is melted. When it is, cut the fire off.
10) Let the pasta sit and cool for about 5 mins before serving. If you’re hardheaded and you eat it before it’s cool, don’t get mad at me when your tongue gets burned.
11) Serve and store the rest in the refrigerator (once fully cooled). It reheats very nicely. If you’re cooking for more than one or 2 people, then you need to double or quadruple your ingredients.
(This is only a version of my secret recipe. I’m obviously not going to divulge my secret ingredient(s) to anyone.)