Call it a salad, main course or side dish…and you can serve this simple, fresh and flavorful pasta year round. Here’s how it goes: Orecchiette (ear-shape) pasta with fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and Romano cheese, combined with diced prosciutto and garlic slivers that are lightly toasted in olive oil. So easy to make, yet so yummy, you might think it came straight from an Italian deli market. Enjoy warm, room temperature or slightly chilled. This is my kind of meal-in-one…or barbeque/picnic/pot luck side dish.
I lightly toasted the garlic in olive oil…to get rid of the rawness. I diced up some prosciutto (be sure to peel the diced layers apart when adding to the pasta). I used a small (melon ball) scoop to get somewhat rounded pieces of the fresh mozzarella (you could also cube them or tear off little chunks/pieces). I use dried orecchiette pasta, which translates to “small ears”. Orecchiette is a Southern Italian pasta, where it is also made fresh.
While the pasta cooked, I shredded the Romano cheese and cut up mini-Roma tomatoes from my garden (cherry or grape tomatoes are fine, too). I picked some tiny basil leaves from my garden, but you can tear larger leaves into pieces.
I added salt, cracked pepper and more olive oil to the garlic-oil mixture, and then immediately tossed it with the cooked and drained orecchiette. Do not let the pasta cool before adding the garlic-oil mixture (or the pasta will stick together, like little hats stacked on one another!). I let it cool slightly and then tossed in the tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, basil and Romano.
Orecchiette With Mozzarella And Prosciutto
Makes 3-4 main course or 6-8 side dish servings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
12 ounces orecchiette pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (about 2 cups)
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
3-4 ounces prosciutto
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until the edges turn golden (do not brown). Remove from the heat and add the salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a 6-quart pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. Drain, transfer to a serving bowl, add the oil-garlic mixture and toss until evenly coated. Let cool for 5 to 15 minutes (the temperature of the dish is up to you), and then gently toss in the tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto and Romano cheese. Toss gently. To serve, garnish generously with small basil leaves (or large leaves torn into small pieces).
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