04 September 2012

Cold Pasta with Burrata & Slow Roasted Tomatoes and the Ancient Town of Matera


Burrata had been in my mind  for days and I couldn't shake it away.

So I went out and started looking for one.  It's not like mozzarella that you can find everywhere.  It's like a mushroom that pops out in the shops at random times.  And like a good mushroom, it's hard not to pick it and take it home.  This time though, I was hunting for it.  After three supermarkets, I hit the jackpot and took home my small bundle of joy.


This little bundle of joy can be easily mistaken for mozzarella because of the resemblance of their exterior.  Only, burrata is wrapped with an asphodelus leaf when sold and when Puglia (the Italian region that makes them) is written beside it, then it's an official invitation to dive in.  This fresh cheese is like a ball, covered with a thin layer of mozzarella and filled up with mozzarella & cream.  It's much tastier than mozzarella but you can't possibly eat it as frequently because it's too rich.


The burrata I bought had been earmarked to join the remaining slow roasted tomatoes that I recently made for a plate of cold pasta and I couldn't wait to put them together.   I needed a third flavor to counteract the tomatoes and burrata.  That's when salted anchovies came to mind.  A quick pass on the saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and chili gave it an edge.  I prefer the burrata to stay fresh so I tossed it with a cold pasta salad.   It came out one tasty and delicious salad.  Imagine the three flavors together and I know you will agree with me.  



Slow roasted tomatoes have become staple in our house after I made them the first time last July.  They have the middle flavor of sun dried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes that are almost perfect.  I do love sun dried tomatoes but at times, they can be quite too strong for what I am mixing them with.  Slow roasted tomatoes came out a very good option.  Here's the link to the recipe. 


Matera is in the south of Italy, in the Basilicata region, right next to Puglia.  Obviously, I made the wrong choice of town to feature in this post.  Truth be told, I thought Matera is in Puglia and my attempt to put burrata and Matera together came out a bit forced.  But hey, Matera does produce burrata too.  I pulled out the wrong town from my photo archives but it's too late to start from scratch again.  You wouldn't mind would you?  


Matera had been inhabited since the Paleolithic period and grew with later stages of human settlement over the years.  My mind still cannot accept how old it is.  It's amazing how a place that had been there several thousands of years ago is still around for us to see, feel and just experience being in it.  After I saw a portion of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, I became curious about the location.  Then it later blossomed to a bit of research until the day came when I was able to pull together a trip to Puglia & Basilicata for a week with my husband and two kids.  I still remember how full our car was of baby stuff because our daughter was just 4-months old at that time and still required so much stuff.  Stroller, bathtub, baby bottles, milk, diapers.  You get the point. 


The ancient part of the town is the Sassi di Matera (Stones of Matera).  They originated from prehistoric times and believed to have been one of the first few human settlements in Italy.  The houses are dug into the rocks, creating caverns.  Along with the houses, there are also some rupestrian churches carved out from the rocks that are still preserved over time. 



However, by the 1950s the living conditions in Matera became a health problem.  They were squalid and malaria-ridden that the government made the residents move to more modern houses and closed down the old town.  In the 1980s, some former residents with economic means went back to renovate the old caves.  A steady stream of renovations to modernity followed.  By 1993, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Tourism gave it a new life.  


Here are some of the pictures I made when we visited this captivating town in 2010.






You can read more about the town's tourism at this site and what Wikipedia and UNESCO have on Matera.

Meantime, let me wish you a good week and thank you for reading.  Until the next post about Sardegna (Sardinia) and fregula, one of the island's delicious pasta dishes. 



Cold Pasta with Burrata & Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 200 grams gnocchetti or any short pasta
  • 200 grams burrata, chopped
  • 200 grams slow roasted tomatoes (please refer to this link or scroll down for the recipe)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 fillets of anchovies
  • 1/2 chili, seeds taken away, chopped (optional)
Directions:
  1. Boil some water for the pasta.  When it boils, add the salt.  Then add the pasta.  Cook according to the number of minutes suggested in the box.
  2. When the pasta is cooked (al dente), drain, transfer to a colander and let the tap water run through it for about a minute to stop it from cooking further with the heat.  
  3. Transfer to a bowl and lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil so that they won't stick to each other.  Set aside.
  4. Over medium heat, in a saucepan with extra virgin olive, sautè the anchovies and chili. When the anchovies have melted, add the oregano then turn off the fire.
  5. Pour the anchovy oil on the pasta.  Mix in the slow roasted tomatoes, burrata and parsley.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Serve.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:
  • 500 grams datterini tomatoes, halved (or any sweet tomatoes you can find)
  • 1 tablespoon brown cane sugar
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon capers (preserved in vinegar but if you cannot find any, you can also use the ones preserved in salt)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Directions:
  1. Soak the capers in water for about 10 minutes.  Drain then squeeze the capers lightly to send away excess liquid.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt & oregano. 
  3. Pour this mixture on the halved tomatoes and mix with your hands.  Add the capers and extra virgin olive oil.  Mix everything using your hands.
  4. Transfer to a baking pan.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 130 degrees Celsius for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. If you see that the tomatoes are drying up, pull the pan out of the oven and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Cook again.



10 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos of Matera! As for the pasta dish, I love burrata (so deliciously creamy!) and slow roasted tomatoes are savory heaven for me!

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    1. Laura, if you try both of them together, then I am quite sure you will like it. Thanks!

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  2. I don't know where to start in saying that both the food and the town look outstanding! What a job you did in this post. I enjoyed it very much, especially the photos! Thanks you, thank you for sharing! Maxine

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    1. Maxine, I should thank you for making my day! Thanks a bunch!

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  3. Wow wow wow!!! Amazing ancient town of Matera!! I cannot imagine myself standing there. The oldest place I've been is probably still in Japan. I cannot wait to take a tour in Europe and see old town like this. The architecture is simply beautiful and breathtaking!! I love Italian food and consider very similar to Japanese food in a way that you always use simple ingredients to make food. I can enjoy the fresh ingredients without seasoning/flavoring too much. Beautiful dish!

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    1. Japanese and Italian cuisines do use fresh ingredients, for that reason I love them both. Thanks Nami!

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  4. I have been eating burrata all summer long. It's heaven paired with a freshly sliced tomato and really good olive oil drizzled right on top. I love the addition you made of anchovies and chile to this amazing looking pasta dish!

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    1. Burrata, fresh tomatoes and good olive oil are really the perfect combination. I'm glad you like this one too!

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  5. Funny indeed! Have had cold pasta with . . . for the last two days cause it was 'available', I needed a full meal in a hurry etc et al :) ! Oh, SO love the photos, imagine meyself all the way 'up' there, bless you for posting and so enjoy 'being there' at the moment!!!

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    1. That's the wonderful part about pasta. It's easy to put together! I'm so glad you like the photos. Thank you very much!

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