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YIELDS:

4 servings

PREP TIME:

0 hours 5 mins

COOK TIME:

0 hours 35 mins

TOTAL TIME:

0 hours 40 mins
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ingredients

8 Oz. Rotini pasta
24 Oz. Fresh Cherry tomatoes on the vine
12 Oz. Marinated Mozzarella balls, cheese and marinade separated
2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp. Fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage and/or parsley)
1/2 Tsp. Calabrian Chili flakes
2 Green onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup olive oil marinade from mozzarella balls
Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

DIRECTIONS

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a large baking dish add the tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Add the chopped garlic, fresh herbs, Calabrian chili flakes, green onions, a big pinch of kosher salt and at least 20 grinds of black pepper. Drizzle with the 1/4 cup of olive oil marinade. Stir to combine.

3) Bake until the tomatoes burst and release their juices and the mozzarella is melting into the tomatoes. About 30 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the rotini and cook per the box instructions.

5) Drain the pasta (saving about a cup of water).

6) Take the baking dish out of the oven, add the pasta and stir until everything is combines. Add the reserved, hot water 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve the right consistency. Taste. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

7) Plate the pasta and grate fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!

NOTES:  This is a fresh and easy pasta dish which uses an amazing, underutilized ingredient:  marinated mozzarella balls.  I’ve used them for years in salads but only recently did I decide to try them in this fresh, oven baked tomato sauce.  Oh, boy, what a treat!

All that yummy marinade mixes with the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and herbs to create an amazing, cheesy sauce for your pasta.  I thought this would work and I was right.  So good and so easy!

A couple of tips to make this perfect every time.

  1. Use the freshest tomatoes you can find. I use cherry tomatoes on the vine because they cook quickly and burst into a sauce in a half hour.  You certainly could try other tomatoes but if using plum, beef or heirloom tomatoes, I’d cut them into large chunks first.
  2. The herb mix can be almost anything you have on hand. Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley will all add their own personality to the dish.  Just chop up your mix so the pieces are very small and well mixed.
  3. I think the Calabrian chilis are a must in this dish. They add just a touch of heat… not too much.
  4. I’m able to find these marinated mozzarella balls right in my grocery store. If you can’t find them, you could marinate plain, small balls of cheese in a mix of olive oil with a bunch of herbs overnight.  In a pinch, you could even soak them in Italian salad dressing for a similar taste profile.  NOTE:  you will have left over marinade in the container.  Don’t throw that away.  I mix it with some red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and have a fast and easy salad dressing.
  5. Be sure you season your water for the pasta really well. It needs more than you think.  It should be very salty…taste it!
  6. When it comes to the Parmesan, use the “real stuff”. You can’t beat the taste.  If you like, you can also shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler so you get long cheese shavings (Love that!).

Prepare for the fact that your guests are going to love this and you’ll be making this in regular rotation.  If you like this method of cooking sauce (And I think you will.) try my Baked Feta Pasta and my Lamb Meatballs with Baked Feta Pasta recipes.

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