This dish is inspired by the spaghetti alla chitarra from Malatesta Trattoria in the West Village. Its terrace was our summer haunt some years ago when we lived just around the corner. It’s a good quick dinner, especially if all you happen to have in your kitchen are cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella in the fridge.
1 pint* cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
2 mozzarella di bufala
Best olive oil for seasoning
Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Be generous with the salt (coarse sea salt works well for this) – pasta water should be as salty as sea water.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Very thinly slice the garlic cloves and throw into a hot skillet with olive oil for about 30 seconds, taking very good care that it does not become brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and fry them in the oil for a few minutes, until they start to become soft. **The skillet should be large enough so the tomato halves don’t overlap too much.** Meanwhile throw the pasta into the boiling water.
Check the pasta regularly after about 8 minutes and drain as soon as it is just al dente (or to desired consistency).
At the last minute, break up the mozzarella, add it to the tomatoes, and cook over medium heat until everything melts into a bubbling sauce. Immediately bowl the pasta, add the sauce, a few coarsely chopped basil leaves, and a thin drizzle of very good olive oil (no need to add olive oil unless it is exceptionally good and adds a kick to the dish). Serve very quickly or the melted mozzarella will begin to harden.
*Cherry tomatoes and berries are sold by the pint in the US. A dry pint is the equivalent of a generous bowl.