When it comes to cooking (but basically almost every other side of my life), I’m really attached to my comfort zone and, regretfully, I don’t try new cooking techniques so often, even though there are so many things that I would like to try. Mostly it is because I’m scared to completely fail and have to eat a sandwich for dinner because I had to throw away the food that I ruined (this is one of my recurrent nightmares) and also because some techniques require equipment that I can’t afford (eg. sous vide).
But some days (the best days) I wake up with the though “today I’m going to do something I never did before”.
This day was about roasting cherry tomatoes, something that I never did before but that I always wanted to try. Roasted tomatoes remind me of the sun and the food of southern Italy so I decided to pair it with Buffalo mozzarella and make a pasta cut typical of Apulia region, Orecchiette.
This pasta cut is called “orecchiette” which literally means “small ears” due to their cute shape and it can me made only by hand without the use of any machinery. The only thing you need is a knife and patience. It took me a while to get the hang how this shape since it’s all a fact of manual skills during the cut and roll of the knife (and it’s not good enough yet but it takes a lot of practice).
I will hopefully post a video in the future showing how to make this pasta cut, for the moment I would suggest you to browse some YouTube videos to understand how to make it or you can buy good quality dried orecchiette pasta if you can find it.
Note: Contrary to what I mistakenly did, remember to remove the garlic cloves from the pan before serving!
The cherry tomatoes will intensify their flavor and sweetness with the roasting and the small burnt parts of skin will add a tone of bitter which will balance the sweetness. The unique taste of the Buffalo mozzarella will bring together all the Mediterranean flavors of this dish.
Orecchiette with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella
For the Pasta
- 170 g 1 cup Semolina Flour
- a pinch of Salt
- 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
For the Sauce
- 200 g 7 oz. Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 small Buffalo Mozzarella
- 2 Garlic cloves
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Chili pepper flakes
- First make the pasta dough adding the pinch of salt to the semolina flour, then slowly add water until the dough becomes slightly sticky. Add the olive oil and keep kneading the dough. If it's too sticky add some more flour, if it's falling apart, add some more water. When you have a soft smooth ball of dough, cover in plastic foil and set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them on a sheet pan with the cut side facing up. Drizzle uniformly with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven at 200°C (400°F) for about 15-20 minutes.
- Divide the pasta dough in smaller parts, take one and roll it on a wooden cutting board dusted with flour until you get a cord thick about 2 cm (3/4 in). Cut it in small chunks of the same thickness then with a table knife roll the chunks to make the orecchiette. Place them on a clean cloth to rest until it's time to cook them.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the salt and gently toss the orecchiette making sure they don't stick together. Drizzle a pan with EVO oil and add the 2 cloves of garlic, brown at low heat so that the garlic infuse the oil with flavor, then add the roasted cherry tomatoes and the shredded mozzarella.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce and add a ladle of pasta water if necessary (the tomatoes and the mozzarella should bring out all their water so it should not be necessary). Toss all together until the pasta is coated with the sauce and the mozzarella is slightly melted. Season with salt and pepper if necessary and add chili pepper flakes to taste.