I’m sitting on my couch sipping some white wine, wishing I had more mozzarella cheese because I really want to make this dish again. It was so quick and simple, which has been great this week because I’m dealing with a sick kitty cat. I feel this topic is relevant because the blog is titled, “The Kitten Kitchen,” and I have many “kittens.” Four to be exact. And Miss Eleanor RigbyCat is the queen bee in this humble abode.
It was always just the two of us. Two peas in a pod. Best friends forever. Then I got a boyfriend, Chris, now my husband. Then we adopted three more boy kitties. Needless to say, she wasn’t thrilled, but she has nothing to complain about. She basically has her own apartment upstairs with her own litter box, special food and huge king-sized bed. Don’t feel too sorry for her.
But seriously, she’s one of my soul mates.
I found Ellie in my backyard when I lived in old apartment in Newport, Kentucky. I thought she was pregnant, but it turned out she had a huge hernia in her belly area. There was a tear in the area where she was spayed, and all her organs leaked through that tear. I’m sure I’m not explaining this with medical precision, but I remember that was the gist. She was almost put to sleep during the surgery because it was so extensive, but she ended up coming out of it with flying colors.
A few years later, I found out that she was having pain in her chest, and when I casually brought up the hernia thing, the doctor said she was probably hit by a car at one point, broke her ribs, and they eventually healed improperly, leading to chest pain. He said the force of the car hitting her probably also caused the internal tear that led to the hernia. Other problems she’s had include having her two front fangs pulled because of infections, anemia and arthritis. And, earlier this year she was diagnosed with kidney disease. So, she has to take two pills, two times a day, and we give her fluids once a day through a needle in the back of her scruff. She just sits there and stares at you. Such a lovely, good girl she is.
The lady that used to live next door to me in Newport said that she thinks Ellie lived outside by herself for almost 1o years. That means she’s probably about a teenager now. Time for me to worry. She was lying down in her litter box the other day, chillin’ (and not peeing), so I assumed the worst. She got some blood work done, and we found out today that she is now severely anemic, and not producing enough of a hormone (erythropoietin), so we are going to have to start giving her some shots three times a week or so. She’s not suffering though. That’s what I was worried about. She’s still lovey, purring and all up in my face, so those are all good signs. Send some good vibes her way, if you’re so inclined.
This was a long-winded way of telling you that I really needed something quick to make for dinner the other night. I was stressed, worried and tired. And this dish delivered. It was warm when I served it, and the next day I ate the leftovers cold, which means it’d be a great dish to bring to a picnic!
Pesto Pasta Caprese
1 pound shaped pasta (rotini, fusilli, penne)
16 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped (peeled, also, if that’s your preference)*
Half of one lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons pesto**
Salt and pepper, to taste
*Tip: Want to make this recipe in the winter when fresh tomatoes aren’t at their prime? Just substitute the fresh tomatoes with a can of whole tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped.
**Tip: Make your own pesto or used a jarred version for added convenience. Also, if you’d rather, substitute a half cup of chopped fresh basil leaves for the pesto. Add at the end of the recipe, with the mozzarella, so the leaves don’t wilt.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain (reserve a cup of pasta water) and set aside.
- Place cubed mozzarella on a cutting board or plate, and place it in the freezer while you’re preparing the other dish components. Freezing it a little beforehand will ensure that it doesn’t melt too quickly when added to the warm pasta.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large saucepan.
- Sauté shallot until translucent, about one minute, then add garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute.
- Stir in the tomatoes, and cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft, about 10 minutes, then smash them up a bit with a wooden spatula.
- Lower heat to medium, add the pasta, lemon juice, pesto, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and cook until it’s heated through. Add reserved pasta water, if needed, to moisten the pasta and make the ingredients stick.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and gently stir in the mozzarella from the freezer.
- Serve warm, or if you’re taking it to a picnic, place it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Tip: Pizzazz time! Toss in a couple tablespoons of capers or sliced black olives when you add the mozzarella.