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A big fancy Italian name for a recipe that is so simple and traditional.  Serious Italian comfort food, this must be the type of dish Italians want to curl up with when they have a serious cases of the blues (or il blus?).

My husband and I weren’t down in the dumps, but last week NYC had quite the thunderstorm that had everyone retreating from the parks and into their apartments.  We experienced such a dip in temperature (brief though it was) that everyone’s air conditioner enjoyed a much deserved respite.  I thought I was going to have to wait till the Fall to try this recipe, but lucky for me, Mother Nature gave us a night off from Summer.

Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 or 2 dried red chillies, crumbled
3 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes (a 28oz can did nicely)
A large handful of fresh basil leaves
Optional: 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (why would this be optional?  do it!)
400g / 14oz dried orecchiette (a typical box, 16oz, is what I used)
4 big handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 x 150g balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced (I used bufala mozzarella…just to be extravagant)

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and boil a large pot of salted water.  Step 2:  In a large sautee pan, add a good amount of oil, the onion, garlic, and chilies over medium low heat until soft, but not colored.  Step 3:  Add the tomatoes to the pan, with a small glass of water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 mintues.  Step 4:  Run the sauce through a bleander or food processor to create a very loose sauce.  Add it back to the pan, ripping in the fresh basil leaves, and adding the vinegar.  Correct the seasoning with salt & pepper.  Step 5:  Cook the orrechiette according to the package directions (Kitty’s Note:  I didn’t agree with Jamie’s directions here, I think you should cook it a minute or two less than the package indicates, so the finished pasta out of the oven is still al dente), then drain and toss with half of the sauce, and a handful of parmesan.  Step 6:  Rub an “appropriately sized baking tray” with some olive oil, and begin layering the tray.  Start with a little pasta, followed by a little sauce, slices of mozzarella, handfuls of parmesan, and repeat until you’ve used all ingredients, ending with a nice layer of cheese on top.  Step 7:  Pop into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes or so, until it’s golden and bubbling.

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Our night off from Summer became an unplanned weeknight date night, complete with table linens, candlelight, and a delicious bottle of Portuguese red that my very smart husband picked out for us (yes, my love, you are very good at selecting wines, and now I have officially announced it to the universe, so you can stop asking me…).  We didn’t even turn on the tv, and sat at the actual dining room table, something that typically only happens when we have company over.  There was even some jazz played.  You can figure the rest of the night out for yourselves….our Moms do read this blog, y’know…

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