This dish has two advantages: First, it is another fantastic meal for hot summer days since the only part of it that requires cooking is the pasta. Second, it is a very nice way to use up some of that bumper crop of cherry tomatoes or basil from the herb garden.
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or Roma cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
freshly grated black pepper, to taste
1 7-8 oz. container bocconcini or ciliegine (baby mozzarella balls), drained
1 large clove garlic, very thinly sliced
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. finely shredded basil (can use an entire .75-oz. pkg from the store)
1 lb. trofie, gemelli, or any spiral pasta
1/3 c. grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
Cut tomatoes in half and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add sliced garlic and olive oil; mix well and let marinate.
Cut the mozzarella balls into quarters (bocconcini) or halves (ciliegine). Add to tomatoes, folding in gently. Stack the basil leaves, roll them up tightly lengthwise, and slice finely, starting at one end of the roll and continuing until all the basil is nicely shredded. Sprinkle the basil on top of the tomato/mozzarella mixture.
Bring a large pot of water to boil; add a sprinkle of salt and the pasta and cook according to package directions just until pasta is al dente. Shortly before pasta is ready, remove about 1/2 c. of the cooking water and set aside.
Call all guests to the table; pasta waits for no one.
Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour tomato/mozzarella/basil mixture over drained pasta in pot and mix in the Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. If pasta seems dry, add reserved cooking water, 1/4 c. at a time. Check seasonings; add more salt/pepper if necessary.