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Zita with Tomatoes, Capocollo, and Diced Mozzarella

(recipe, Lynne Rossetto Kasper)

Introduction

In this dish, tubes of pasta are sauced with tomatoes, browned bits of pancetta, and capocollo, garlic, basil, and big chunks of milky mozzarella. Country cooks know the secret of getting a stunning amount of flavor from a little meat and a lot of tomatoes. Their trick is using cured meats – salami, pancetta, prosciutto, or the capocollo some people call "poor man's prosciutto." In this recipe, you simply brown the meats in olive oil, sauté in lots of garlic and basil, add part of the tomatoes, and cook the sauce down fast. Then add the extra touch: near the very end of cooking, you stir in some drained canned diced tomatoes. They give the sauce a juicy, meaty finish. Toss with the pasta and mozzarella and serve it in a deep bowl.

Ingredients

  1. Extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 4 oz. (2 to 3¼-inch-thick slices) high-quality hot capocollo, coppa, or soppressata, cut into generous ¼-inch dice
  3. 6 to 8 oz. (3 to 4¼-inch-thick slices) pancetta, cut into generous ¼-inch dice
  4. ⅛ to ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  5. 1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped and tightly packed
  6. 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  7. ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped and tightly packed
  8. 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, thoroughly drained
  9. Salt
  10. 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  11. 1 lb. zita, sedani, or small penne
  12. 6 qt. boiling salted water
  13. 14 to 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into generous ½-inch dice

Steps

  1. Film the bottom of a 12-inch sauté pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the capocollo, pancetta, and pepper, and cook until lightly browned, adding the parsley toward the end. Raise the heat to medium-high. Stir in the garlic and basil, sautéing until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Add the 2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes, crushing them with your hands, and boil, uncovered, about 8 minutes, or until thick. Season with salt and assertive black pepper. Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook just 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cover the pan. (The sauce can wait about an hour at room temperature. It can also be refrigerated in a covered container up to 2 days; reheat before proceeding.)
  3. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water until a little less done than you'd like it. Drain immediately.
  4. Toss the pasta with the sauce over medium heat a few minutes. Fold in the mozzarella and turn into a warmed serving bowl. Serve hot.

Note

Zita are narrow hollow tubes 2 1/2 to 3 inches long and between 1/4 and 1/2 inch in diameter. You could substitute sedani or penne, but I like zita's distinctive length.