I swear – this is a dish whose flavour can knock your socks off, and in a good way. If you ever wondered how to make tomato pasta taste unbelievably good, this is your chance.
What's exciting about tomato pasta?
Pasta, tomato sauce, cheese - sounds awfully boring. It actually sounds like a dish a friend of mine once treated me to and that was an unforgettable experience NOT in a good sense. She boiled pasta, added tomato puree and grated cheese over it. Gross.
But this is the least boring pasta dish I could imagine. It's vibrant, flavoursome, rich and satisfying - all the requisite elements of a good pasta bake.
The star of this show is provolone. It’s an Italian cheese which comes in dolce or piccante variety, made from cow’s milk and granted DOP designation. It melts like an angel into delicious strings and the charred bits get crispy.
Provolone and substitutes
You can’t easily buy it in the UK, which puzzles me no end as it’s similar to, or nicer than several cheeses common as muck in this country. Mozzarella first of all, Greek halloumi but also scamorza – smoked mozzarella, is easier to be encountered in shops than provolone.
It’s not exactly awfully expensive – if anything isn’t – and it has precisely the wonderful melty-stringy qualities that are adored in the Kraft plastic slices; while being proper unprocessed cheese. Go figure why it isn’t wider known. If Asiago is more popular in your neck of woods, go for it. Otherwise use good quality cooking mozzarella.
The supporting part is played by the tomato marinara sauce. I know, I know – marinara is the quick tomato sauce without onions; but I’m not Italian and I don’t know better. What I know is that the combination of onion and tomatoes makes the sauce sing and the whole dish dance.
Make twice as much
I'd strongly advise you to make double the amount of the sauce and freeze half for another provolone or asiago occasion. Or to put it on pizza. Or on ravioli. Or on toast. Just joking but it is THAT tasty.