Summer time and the living is easy. We try to spend as much time outdoors enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the cooling waters of a pool, lake or the ocean. Meals tend to be simple, often made with a bounty fresh produce from the garden. The fresh produce may be from your own garden or purchased from your local farm stand or farmers market. Spaghetti alla Portofino takes advantage of two of summers best ingredients…tomatoes and basil.
My version of this pasta dish is a twist on two classic Italian favorites. The ever popular caprese salad features slices of mozzarella, the freshest of tomatoes and basil. Pesto from the Ligurian section of Italy is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and grated cheese.
Inspiration for this dish came from the incredibly beautiful seaside town of Portofino. During our trip to Italy last fall, we had lunch at the Ristorante Puny that sits at the waters’ edge at the Portofino harbor. When ordering, our waiter suggested that we share a platter of pappardelle alla Portofino as our pasta course. The sauce is a blend of tomatoes with pesto.
Spaghetti Alla Portofino
- 1/2 lb. thick spaghetti
- 3 or 4 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted golden
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. olive oil plus extra to drizzle
- 1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- a dozen or more cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
- 4 – 6 small fresh mozzarella balls cut into quarters
- 3 Tbsp. grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
While waiting for the water to boil, place 2 Tbsp. oil, toasted pine nuts and chopped garlic in a food processor and process to combine. Heat the 1/4 c. of olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and nut mixture and bring to a simmer. When the garlic is soft and just starting to golden, add the wine. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes. Simmer until the tomatoes are soft but still have their shape.
When pasta is cooked, drain but reserve one cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet and toss to combine. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as needed for a sauce like consistency and cook for a minute or two. Add the mozzarella, grated cheese,salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Plate the pasta, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped basil. Serve with additional grated cheese at the table.
This simple and easy to prepare dish is perfect for those days when the weather is not nice enough to be cooking outside on the grill…on a day the weather may have turned a little cool or drizzly. Or perhaps you are just craving a wonderful dish that doesn’t include meat. When you have fresh tomatoes and basil, do as the Italians and prepare a quick and delicious bowl of pasta.