Total approximate time from start to finish: 35-40 minutes
This is one of my new favorite dishes - made from scratch. I made it for the first time for a group of friends this week. It was fairly easy, delicious and provided my family with lunch leftovers for the next day. Don’t let the title scare you off – it’s actually quite simple and I found all of the ingredients at Wal-Mart. It had a little bit of a kick to it (thanks to the red pepper flakes) but we didn’t think it was all that spicy. I will try to include pictures throughout the cooking process for future recipes. Please keep in mind my camera is a bit antiquated and the photographer very amateur. I wasn't crazy about the picture for this recipe but hopefully it gave you an idea of just how yummy it was.
Here is what you will need:
½ pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
Dried red pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh italian parsley
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (1 15 oz can)
¼ cup water
¾ pound penne
½ pound Canadian bacon, cut into ¼ inch dice
Before you start preparing ingredients, put a large pot of water on to boil. I always add salt to my pasta water – it really gives the pasta a nice flavor. I usually use about 1 tablespoon of salt to one large pot of water.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mozzarella, 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil, ¼ tsp of salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and the Italian parsley. Set this aside and let it marinate for a bit. It actually makes a very pretty color combination.
Then, get a large saucepan/stew pot and heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat on your stove. Add the onion and cook it about 5 minutes or until it’s translucent. Stir it a few times so that all of the onion cooks evenly. Next, add the tomatoes, water, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (less if you want less spice). Bring it to a soft boil, put the lid on and turn it down to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
By this time your water should be boiling and ready for your penne. Add it to the water and cook it until it’s just done, usually about 13 minutes. Don’t forget to set your timer AFTER the pasta has returned to a boil. It usually takes a minute after you add the pasta for the water to return a boil. Also, make sure you stir it right after you add it and several times while it is boiling. Before you drain it, save out about ¼ cup of the pasta water (you may need it later). Drain the pasta well and rinse it lightly with cold water.
Put the drained pasta back into the pot you cooked the pasta in. Add the tomato sauce mixture and Canadian bacon and combine well. Then toss with the mozzarella mixture. If your sauce seems too thick you can add some of your pasta water. Serve immediately after mixing together because the cheese melts quickly. I love to serve this with crusty bread and a tossed salad. It was definitely a crowd pleaser at my house and a dish I will definitely make again.
A quick note about the ingredients:
I found the mozzarella at Wal-Mart next to the other standard block cheeses (cheddar, swiss, etc), beneath the bags of shredded cheeses. You will find the Italian parsley over by the fresh herbs in the produce department. It looks a little like cilantro, so make sure you look at the twist tie that holds it together before you purchase it. The herbs are very different and I imagine cilantro would give this dish a very different flavor! The Canadian bacon was also very easy to find – it was in the same area as the bacon and sausage.