How much dry pasta makes a great bowl of pasta and sauce?
We love a great bowl of pasta. It’s one of our most favorite comfort foods, especially on a cold winter night. I am particularly fond of Orecchiette, the little “ears” — the exact translation from Italian. This pasta is like a little bowl itself. It holds the ingredients to whatever sauce it’s paired with. The one caveat I have with cooking pasta is that I think the ratio of sauce to pasta should tilt heavily in the direction of the sauce. I believe that one cup of dried pasta per serving is ideal. In the case of spaghetti, linguine or any long pasta, 1/8 of a 16-oz. box is a gracious plenty.
The Crowing Glory on this bowl of pasta is a cheese that’s taken the East Coast by storm.
Today’s recipe is very simple to pull off. Boil the pasta. Brown the sausage. Add the jarred red peppers and the spinach. Pick up the flavor with the red chili pepper flakes. Finish the whole thing off with white wine, butter, and parmesan. But the crowning joy of this particular bowl of pasta is unquestionably the luscious creamy-rich boule of Burrata fresh Mozzarella that’s been broken over the bowl of pasta. It’s a wonderful contrast to the solidity of the sauce and pasta. It cools down the red chili pepper while amping up the richness of the dish. I am very fond of the Burrata found at Trader Joe’s. It has the requisite milkiness of artisanal Burrata but for much less money. The only caveat is that it should be eaten within a couple of days from purchase. Beyond that, it risks becoming tough on the outside and less creamy inside. What exactly is Burrata, which seems to have taken my part of the country by storm?
Everything you ever wanted to know about Burrata.
Burrata is a fresh Italian cow’s milk cheese (occasionally made from water buffalo milk). It is actually a fairly recent invention. It may have its origins on a single farm in Apulia in southern Italy. To be precise: Bianchini’s Farm in Andria. In the 1950s, Lorenzo Bianchini developed Burrata. The cheese starts out like mozzarella where rennet is used to curdle warm milk. But then the curds of fresh mozzarella are plunged into hot whey, kneaded and then shaped into balls. While still hot, they are formed into pouches which are then filled with leftover mozzarella, topped with fresh cream and closed. Traditionally, Burrata was wrapped in the leaves of the Asphodel plant which conveniently brown on the same schedule as Burrata ages, three or four days. Fresh leave meant fresh cheese. Dried out ones signaled Burrata was past its prime. You won’t find any asphodel leaves on Trader’s Joe’s Burrata so keep an eye on the use-by date.
Here’s today’s recipe and after it some other pasta recipes to try…including one that takes you to Amalfi.
Orecchiette with Sausage, Peppers, Baby Spinach and Burrata
A warming bowl of Pasta filled with Sausage, Peppers, and Baby Spinach is topped with creamy-rich Burrata for a quick and satisfying meal.
- 2 Cups of dry Orecchiette pasta
- 12 ounces of sweet Italian sausage
- 1-½ of a (12-ounce) jar of roasted red peppers
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups dry orecchiette pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1 tsp. Red Chili Pepper Flakes
- 2 4-ounce Boules of Trader Joe’s Burrata or other Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, halved with one-half boule per serving.
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Step 1 Start boiling a large pot of water for the pasta over high heat.
- Step 2 Remove the Burrata from the refrigerator, drain the container and put the boules in a bowl. Set aside.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, remove the casings from the Italian sausage. Take the roasted red peppers out of the jar. Slice them into ¼ inch ribbons. Finely grate until you have 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Step 4 Salt the water generously and stir in 2 cups of orecchiette pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is cooked for about 14 minutes. (Check the package for cooking times. Mine was 14 minutes.) Remove about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the skillet containing the sausage.
- Step 5 While the pasta cooks, put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick 12-inch skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the sausage and begin gently breaking up the links with a wooden spoon, but allow the sausage to begin to brown before aggressively stirring. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Step 6 Add 1/3 cup dry white wine and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Stir in the red pepper strips and the Red Chili Pepper flakes. Add 5 ounces baby spinach. Sprinkle lightly with salt and several grinds of pepper. Stir until the spinach is about halfway wilted.
- Step 7 Add to the skillet 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and the Parmesan. Toss until well-combined and both the butter and cheese have melted, adding a splash of the reserved pasta water as needed. Taste the dish and correct the seasonings. Divide the pasta among 4 large pasta bowls. Top each bowl with half a boule of Burrata. Serve with crusty bread and salted butter.