real life test kitchen: summer pasta


The other week there was a story in the NYTimes magazine by Amanda Hesser, called Pamela Sherrid’s Summer Pasta. It was a tribute and a reprinting of a recipe from 1996 that sounded so simple and pure I had to try it. It sounded like the best food I ever had in Italy, things that were bought at the market that morning, and served up for an early dinner on an outdoor terrace. Ahhh. Here’s how this delightful wonder is made: Early in the day, put half a cup of olive in a large bowl with some chopped garlic cloves and shredded basil leaves. Let that sit and sit. Two hours before you want to eat, chop up the ripest tomatoes you can find (this is the month! they’re amazing!) and add to bowl. A couple of hours later, boil up some rigatoni (al dente, natch). While it’s cooking, chop up a pound of fresh mozzarella. When the pasta is done, add it to the bowl on top of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the cheese on top of that, and then carefully mix ONLY the pasta and the cheese, so it softens and gets a nice coating. Then, stir the whole thing together and serve. My only was stumble was that the pasta was so hot, it caused the mozzarella cubes to melt together a bit into large clumps. Still tasted yummy though. The best part, dipping in some fresh, crusty bread to soak up all the loveliness at the bottom of the dish. It’s worth the garlic breath! Bellisima! Click here for the whole story and recipe. — Angela M.

From our partners

re the cheese clumpage–

cook’s illustrated recently tacked this recipe (they called it capresse pasta), and found that the cheese clumped unless it was pricey handmade mozzarella, or more affordably, if you refrigerated the chopped mozzarella before adding it to the bowl. Sounds delicious!

Or you could let the pasta cool first.


I think the recipe was many times more complicated than it needed to be–you could also chop up all these ingredients, toss them together, and add the hot pasta (along with a little hot pasta water, if necessary), and it would be just as delicious. I’m speaking from experience–every summer when the good tomatoes and basil arrive, it’s a weekly dinner of mine. And, incidentally, wagon wheel pasta is the perfect shape for this dish, catching all the goodness between the spokes…


Made this last night for the first time and had the same problem- I didn’t let the pasta cool down enough and it melted the mozzarella (not the cheapo kind, either!). I used Mini Penne but I like Lesley’s suggestion of using wagon wheels…
Other than big globs of gooey mozzarella (is that really a bad thing?), it was spectacular! The 2 of us enjoyed it with a glass (read as: bottle) of Penfolds. This will definitely become a regular recipe in the summer pasta rotation.


I’m making this tonight! I’ve had the olive oil. basil, & garlic sitting since early this morning…so excited, it sounds great & I have a ton of tomatoes & didn’t know what I was going to do w/them…thanks for this!

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A friend shared the EXACT same recipe with me last year – with one modification: brie instead of mozzarella. Let the brie macerate with the rest of the ingredients and it will breakdown nicely and coat your pasta more evenly (cream-ily?) than the mozzarella. Very rich and sinful and oh what it does for the bread-dipping sauce remnants in your bowl… *swoon*