Make Ahead

Semi-Cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Wild Watercress & Fresh Mozzarella for Bucatini

August 18, 2011
4 Stars
Author Notes

This recipe is a good example of the way I like to cook in Summer when the market is overflowing with fabulous produce. Everything except the condiments, the pasta and Pecorino came from the Greenmarket.

Every time I type the phrase “al dente” I am reminded of a hysterical letter that was posted in the window of a trattoria in the North End of Boston many years ago. The restaurant’s name was “Al Dente,” and someone had written to say how much they enjoyed their dinner. The funny part was that the sender had started his letter very businesslike:
Al Dente Restaurant
____ Salem Street
Boston, MA 02113

Dear Al:

  • Makes 4 servings
  • 3/4 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (mine were multicolored)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch wild watercress, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
  • a few grinds each of black and white peppers
  • 1/4 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil (I used Alziari)
  • 1/3 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut in small pieces
  • 12 ounces Bucatini
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano (for the table)
In This Recipe
  1. In the bowl you will serve the pasta in, combine all the ingredients except the mozzarella, bucatini and the Romano. Toss them to combine and let it sit at room temperature while you cook the pasta.
  2. Bring a large pot of cold water to a rollicking-frolicking boil. Add plenty of Kosher salt so the water tastes of the sea. Add the bucatini. Stir with a long wooden spoon to ensure the strands separate completely. Cook (according to package directions) to al dente.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain well, reserving about ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  4. Immediately pour the drained bucatini over the cherry tomato mixture in the serving bowl. Let it sit for a few minutes to warm up the vegetables, then toss everything together. If the mixture seems dry, add the pasta water in dribbles until it becomes moist enough to suit you.
  5. Mix in the mozzarella, and serve at once.

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