Quick Marinara Sauce with Ziti and Mozzarella Cubes

serves: 6

6 quarts water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded , or one 28-oz. can of peeled Italian tomatoes
2 sprigs of fresh basil
Peperoncino (crushed red pepper) to taste
1 pound ziti
2 cups fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup grana padano, grated
1/2 cup frsh basil leaves, shredded and loosely packed, for garnish


Bring a pot with 6 quarts of salted water to a boil.

In a medium-size, nonreactive saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Carefully add the tomatoes and their liquid. Add the basil sprigs, bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. About 10 minutes after the sauce has been on the stove, throw the ziti in the boiling water to cook. Reduce the heat to a simmer and break up the tomatoes with a whisk as they cook, until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove the basil sprigs and garlic cloves.

Drain ziti and add to simmering sauce; toss well until pasta is coated with sauce. Turn off the stove, toss in mozzarella cubes and grated cheese, and serve immediately, topping with some shredded fresh basil leaves if desired.

Kids Can:

Separate and peel garlic cloves; add mozzarella cubes; toss in grated cheese; and mix and help garnish the dish with basil leaves.