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Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:14 pm

Pasta with Brie, Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil

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This is a family favorite, something all three of my grown children still make now that they’re on their own. It’s good when still warm, but equally good at room temperature, making it perfect for picnics and potlucks.

  • 3 c. coarsely chopped, seeded fresh tomatoes
  • 1 T. kosher or sea salt
  • 8 oz. brie — See note below
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. – 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves
  • freshly ground pepper, preferably white, and salt if needed
  • 1 lb. bite-sized dried pasta

Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find for this dish. Any type works well – cherry tomatoes, Romas, heirloom black, green, yellow or striped, as well as red. A combination of colors makes it especially attractive, but isn’t necessary. Put the tomatoes in a sieve and toss with the tablespoon of salt. Let the tomatoes drain for 15 minutes, then place in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the pasta and condiment when finished.

While the tomatoes are draining, turn the oven on low for 5 minutes, then turn it off. This isn’t necessary if your oven has a pilot light.

Cut the cheese into cubes and add to the tomatoes. Stir in the garlic and olive oil. Tear the basil leaves into pieces or chiffonade them (cut them into very thin strips; best done by stacking the leaves before cutting). Add half the basil, reserving the rest, and the pepper. Place the bowl in the warm oven for 30 minutes to let the ingredients warm and the flavors combine. The tomatoes will continue to exude juice, but the oven shouldn’t be hot enough that the ingredients cook.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the pasta, stir the bottom of the pot to keep any pasta from sticking, and cook just until it’s “al dente.” This is almost always 1-2 minutes LESS than the cooking times on the package.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and IMMEDIATELY add to the tomato/brie mixture, tossing until the ingredients are combined and the cheese has melted into the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining basil. Serves 4-6.

Note: Use the brie with the rind on or the rind off, or just trim off the thicker parts of the rind. Whatever your preference, there should be 8 oz. of brie. If the rind is completely removed it takes approximately 12 oz. cheese with rind to yield 8 oz. trimmed.

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