The finest ingredients are often best showcased in dishes where you do nothing to the ingredients at all. Does that makes sense? At any rate, a simple pasta pomodoro or pasta with tomato sauce is my benchmark for an Italian kitchen/restaurant. If they can’t do that dish well, I don’t typically bother to return to try other dishes on the menu. Pasta pomodoro is so simple, yet is rarely done right outside of Italy. In its purest form, I like the red sauce on spaghetti or spaghettini. Fresh basil is a nice addition. Good mozzarella, the sauce and penne works well too. Getting further astray, with bacon and chili peppers I like the sauce with bucatini and the variations multiply exponentially from there.
So with some great burrata on hand, and baby arugula, I decided to make a simple tomato sauce and tossed that with penne, the cheese and greens. To make the basic sauce, I used two small cans of whole Italian plum (romano) tomatoes, roughly chopped up. Half an onion, thinly sliced. Four cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Into a stainless steel saute pan over medium heat, I added several tablespoons of olive oil, then the onions and the garlic. Sweat this for a few minutes and make sure it doesn’t brown at all. Next, add the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up to high and once the sauce comes to a simmer, bring the heat back down to medium. After a few minutes, the sauce will thicken and you can season with salt (NOT iodized salt) and pepper to taste. I wanted a touch of zing, so I added a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes. The sauce should be done in less than 15 minutes. And yes, the saute pan vs. say a Le Creuset dutch oven DOES make a difference, because in this sauce, you want the water to evaporate quickly.
Meanwhile, plunge your penne pasta into WELL SALTED boiling water and cook until just al dente. Add the pasta to the thickened sauce in the saute pan and toss. Add the baby arugula and toss and transfer to serving platter. Rip open the burrata cheese and lay large pieces over the pasta. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on the burrata and add some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately. Oh, another tip, heat your serving platter and pasta bowls if you want to retain heat for a longer period of time. This is simply pasta heaven for me. So easy, so incredibly satisfying. If you have no baby arugula, use fresh sweet basil. If you have no burrata, use little cubes of buffalo mozzarella and toss them into the hot pasta at the last moment. Do not bother to make this dish with substandard grocery packaged mozzarella of dubious provenance. Just don’t. :)