Summer Pasta

Before summer is over (technically only a few more weeks), I wanted to share my favorite summer meal… made it tonight and it reminded me of my most recent trip to Napa.

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The majority of my vacation in the Bay Area was spent with my family at a friend’s home in the hills above Napa. It was a glorious few days (far too short) in a beautiful home with a gorgeous kitchen & stunning views – not to mention pool, hot tub, tennis court, mini-vineyard, and all the makings of a private resort!

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As usual, I did not take nearly enough pictures – I’m hoping my family (who took plenty of pictures) will share some for future posts!

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Dinner on the first night in the house was prepared by my sister Maria – her specialty, Summer Pasta, made even better with local tomatoes and mozzarella and fresh-picked basil. Served with an arugula salad and lots of great wine, it was a wonderful first night together.

I don’t have her recipe written down, but I’ve seen it made a few times… here’s my best guess at the recipe for 4 large servings:

1 pound penne rigati (we use whole wheat pasta for the nutty flavor)

2 pints grape or Sweet 100 tomatoes (or assorted small varieties), cut in half

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (not chopped)

approximately 1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup good-quality olive oil (more or less)

1 bunch fresh basil, torn or cut “chiffonade” (ribbons)

1 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

1 pint bocconcini (small rounds of fresh mozzarella), cut in 1/2 or 1/4

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Red chile flakes

Place the tomato halves in a large bowl. Add sea salt to disgorge (make them juicy). Add the garlic cloves and olive oil. Allow to macerate for 20-30 minutes.

Cook the pasta. Prepare the other ingredients while the pasta cooks so everything is ready to go as soon as it’s done. Before proceeding, remove the garlic cloves from the tomatoes.

After draining the pasta, transfer it to a large bowl and combine with the tomato mixture, the olives, basil, and mozzarella. Adjust seasoning with additional olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with red chile flakes on the side.

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