I can’t say I’m the most organized person, but one area in my life where I do crave order and lists is grocery shopping. My mom is a freaking ninja when it comes to it–not only does she write lists weekly, kept in a little stenography notebook, but she lists everything in the exact order she’ll find them in the store. By aisle. It’s hardcore–and she started doing it back when I was little and she needed to get through the store as quickly as possible before I started getting fussy.
I am nowhere nearly this organized with lists, but I am pretty good about whipping out a Post-It or one of our restaurant waitstaff notebooks (you know, those guest check pads you can buy at Staples) and a Sharpie and meticulously* noting down everything we need for a meal.
I hadn’t given any thought to dinner by the time we went to Fairway on Sunday afternoon, so we walked in and I was feeling antsy–I should have been grabbing ingredients as we walked past the various produce aisles, but instead we were just wandering about, in search of inspiration (Michael) and free samples (me). It got to the point where I was barred from trying anything else until I had come up with something to contribute to dinner.
In all fairness, there were a lot of samples. Besides my weekly visit to “say hello to the olive oils” (i.e. a huge olive oil tasting area complete with bread bins to taste to one’s heart’s content) there was guacamole, salsa, sausages, and pulled pork–I mean, who would say no to all of that?
But I digress. I was definitely in the mood for pasta, but I wanted something light after having a rich lasagna the night before at my parents’ house. A quickly-cooked sauce of tomatoes, basil, onion and garlic sounded good to both of us, and Michael had already picked out the chicken he wanted to roast, so we made short order of assembling the rest of the items we needed and promptly got out of the store…including indulging in a ball of mozzarella di bufula. Normally Fairway’s own hand-pulled fresh mozzarella is just fine for us, but they were out of the salted kind we tend to prefer. So I plunked down 11 bucks for a 6oz ball, and frankly, it was worth every penny. But more on that later.
This is a sauce I’ll be sure to revisit time and time again over the summer because there’s not much to it and it could go well with any of our normal sides. It also gave me a fresh appreciation for balsamic vinegar–had I just stuck to using olive oil and maybe a splash of white vermouth, I’d be lacking the body that the dark vinegar brought to the party. Michael–an avowed vinegar enthusiast–thought the final product had a “restaurant-like” quality to it, and I’m pretty sure it’s on account of the splashes of the stuff that coated the onions and tomatoes.
The mozzarella di bufula didn’t hurt either–added in after the pasta was plated, it was a soft counterpoint to the cooked sauce, and it the chunks nestled neatly into the shells along with the bits of tomato, basil and onion. While not a weekly kind of purchase, it’s definitely worth the occasional indulgence, and best saved for those late-summer tomatoes that define summertime perfection.
Easy Summer Caprese Sauce
- 1 lb box pasta (large shells work really well)
- 1/2 large sweet or Vidalia onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1/3-1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella or mozzarella di bufula, cubed
- Kosher salt
Bring a large pot of water to boil, season well with salt, and then cook pasta about a minute or two less than package directions. Save a cup of cooking water to help make the sauce. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, add onions and a little salt and cook until softened and translucent, about three minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, then add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and toss to coat, another 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil, toss, and splash with a little more vinegar and cook for about a minute or two. Then add pasta, using a little pasta water to help bring the sauce together, and toss to coat. Add to bowls and divide cheese among each serving and serve immediately.