Another of my addictions, in addition to corn, is cheese. The stinkier, moldier, smellier, the better. One of my favorites is Pecorino Romano. When it's real - that is to say imported from Italy with the stamping on the rind to prove it - it's outrageously pungent and flavorful. It smells a bit like a boy's locker room filled with sweaty feet. Which means it's damn good.
Even though it is so bloody hot outside my corn is actually turning into popcorn right there on the stalks, I'm a bit tired of grilling. Well, not grilling per se; I'm just over eating a ton of meat, which we tend to do during the summer.
I wanted to add a bit of my garden to the pasta so I decided to saute some cherry tomatoes with garlic. I cut up some basil to add some bright freshness to the somewhat heavy pasta. You will need the Pecorino Romano grated finely, which you can do on the small holes on a box grater or (as I did) cut it into chunks and zip it in the food processor.
The rich, creamy sauce gets it's heft from the pasta water itself. Normally, we cook pasta in tons of water to give it room to dance and twirl around in the pot. This recipe uses very little water to concentrate the starches released by the pasta. It goes against what we've always been taught but it works to our advantage here.
Pecorino Romano Caprese Pasta
4 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 2 c.)
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1-1/2 t. table salt
2 T. heavy cream
2 t. olive oil
1/4 t. pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 t. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8-10 large basil leaves
After grating the cheese, place it in a medium bowl. Put a colander in a large bowl to collect the pasta water.
Bring 2 quarts water (measure it!) to boil in large stock pot or dutch oven. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and pasta. Stir frequently so it doesn't stick, until cooked. Drain pasta into colander, keeping the cooking water. Measure out 1-1/2 cups pasta water and throw out the rest. Put the pasta in the large bowl that is now empty.
Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in saucepan. Add cherry tomatoes and cook over medium heat until starting to burst. Add garlic and saute another few minutes until garlic begins to brown.
Slowly whisk 1 cup of the pasta water into the cheese until smooth. Whisk in cream, 2 teaspoons oil, and pepper. Add cheese sauce to pasta and toss to coat. Let sit another minute to absorb sauce. Add remaining 1/2 cup reserved pasta water if needed, mixing as you go.
Stack basil leaves , roll up, and slice into thin strips.
Serve pasta topped with tomatoes and fresh basil.
Recipe somewhat adapted America's Test Kitchen