Friday, January 20, 2012

Bartolotta Pasta

Yes, it has taken me considerably longer than my fellow Badger bloggers to complete my first post, but I have finally got around to it! I decided to start off with one of my favorite pastas: it's cheesy, fresh, and has a nice little spicy kick. Coming from an Italian family, pasta is a staple at my house, and is eaten at least once a week. If you are from the Milwaukee area, you probably have heard of the Bartollota name that is in the title of the pasta. This is because they own a line of Italian restaurants in Southeastern Wisconsin. And yes, my mom got the recipe from one of the Bartollota's in person! It is really easy to modify this one by using vegetables that are in season or just change ingredients to your own taste. I have to admit, I did not have all the necessary ingredients to make it this time, but the recipe has yet to fail me on always turning out delicious, no matter what is missing or what I add to it. The picture really doesn't do the recipe justice, but I promise you will love it.


Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
16 oz. can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
Handful of fresh basil leaves: they can be whole or coarsely chopped (I didn't have this when I made it, so I used about a teaspoon of dried basil)
1 pound penne or rigitoni (I just used up the half-full boxes of pasta I already had sitting on my shelf...hey I'm a college student on a budget)
8 oz. block of mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes

Optional Ingredients (no need to add all of them! Choose your favorites. Today I used Italian sausage, yellow zucchini squash, half a green pepper, and a few mushrooms):

Your favorite Italian sausage (I have also used spinach chicken sausage or spicy Italian seasoned chicken sausage which were really yummy)
Yellow Zucchini Squash
Green, yellow, and/or red peppers
Be creative! Add whatever you would like!

Start a large pot of water on high heat to boil the pasta before getting started on the sauce. (Don't forget to season the water with salt!) I also always make sure all of my veggies are chopped and ready to go before I start cooking. Way less stressful that way. Coat the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil and put on medium heat. If you are using sausage, brown before adding the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes only for about 1 minute. Add your vegetables and let them saute with the garlic for a a minute or two. Add the can of diced tomatoes and water. I usually just fill the empty tomato can 3/4 full of water to get the tomato remnants out of the can instead of measuring out the water. Put your fresh (or dried) basil in the sauce and let it simmer uncovered until your pasta is ready.

I would recommend under-cooking your pasta just a little bit for this recipe, just because adding a hot liquidy sauce continues to cook the pasta after the dish is complete. In a large mixing bowl or serving dish, pour your pasta and the contents of the saucepan and mix.  I discovered from experience to not add your cubed mozzarella to the large mixing bowl, because it tends to melt and dissolve to almost a soupy consistency. I like to add a few cubes of cheese to each serving. Let the cheese melt, sprinkle with some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, garnish with fresh basil, and indulge!

I forgot to mention: the leftovers are AMAZING! I always make some extra to be sure I will have a plate left-over for the next day. I would almost choose the pasta a day old over fresh! Just mix the remaining cubes of mozzarella to the your leftovers dish and zap in the microwave for a minute and half and it is heaven! Hopefully it won't take me half a year to put up my next blog post.

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