Pasta alla pizzaiola
- Very easy
- 30 min
It’s always good to try the local specialties when you travel, and in the case of Italy, you only have to move from one city to another to discover unique ingredients and flavors typically found only in that particular part of the country. This is certainly true of the Campania region, where you could spend whole weeks and still not discover all of the region’s traditional dishes, but who hasn’t sampled the famous gnocchi dish from Sorrento, gnocchi alla sorrentina, at least once? The tasty sauce for this first course won us over at first bite: rich, juicy tomatoes; fragrant basil; melting mozzarella... so much so that we came up with our own delicious variation: pasta alla sorrentina. We opted to use fusilli pasta for its spiral shape that holds the sauce well. You’ll see exactly what we mean when you try it baked in the oven with a cheese topping! Pasta alla sorrentina is a spectacularly succulent vegetarian dish that’s great for sharing with the whole family.
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To prepare pasta alla sorrentina, you’ll need to start by preparing the sauce. Pour the oil into a large pan and add the peeled garlic clove 1, fry for 1 minute, and then add the tomato puree 2. Season with salt as needed, add a few basil leaves, and stir 3.
At this point, cover with a lid, and leave to cook for 30 minutes over low heat before removing the garlic clove 4. Heat a pot full of water to cook the pasta, and in the meantime, cut the mozzarella into cubes 5. Once the water has reached a boil, cook the pasta al dente 6
before draining it and adding it to the sauce 7, stirring well to combine 8. Pour around half of the pasta into a 10-inch (25-cm) round baking dish to form the first layer 9,
before placing half of the mozzarella cubes 10 on top and sprinkling with a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 11. Cover with the remaining pasta 12,
then add the mozzarella, and finally cover with the Parmigiano Reggiano (13-14). Broil in the oven for around 5 minutes, until the pasta is nicely baked and the mozzarella has melted (if you don’t have a broil function, you can put the dish on the top rack and turn the oven on full power, but be careful not to burn it!). Garnish your pasta alla sorrentina with some fresh basil and serve immediately 15!
This pasta dish is best eaten still piping hot with the cheese melting and stringy. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, sealed in an airtight container.
If you prefer, you can freeze it, in which case you should undercook the pasta slightly, or prepare everything in advance and bake before serving. You could even prepare the sauce in advance and just cook the pasta before serving.
If you want to go down the traditional route, prepare the sauce using good sauce tomatoes and put them through a vegetable mill once cooked.
If you prefer a thicker sauce with a more intense flavor, try adding some tomato paste. A tablespoon will be enough. You could even sprinkle with breadcrumbs for a crispier surface.