We all know there are times when cooking is a chore; a necessary hassle born of our need to get a meal on the table. But, equally, there are times when the entire process seems connected to something deeper, the act of cooking tied to the world around us through the use of the freshest, highest quality ingredients, as well as to those that we cook for, and to something deep inside ourselves.
In times of celebration cooking is a way of showing (and sharing) love, while it can also bring a sense of calm (and even control) during difficult times.
This pasta dish is one of those special recipes that is simple to execute, yet also lastingly joyful to eat. Using the finest ingredients – air-dried, whole wheat Italian pasta, herbaceous Australian extra virgin olive oil, vibrantly fresh herbs, and the best burrata you can find – means every mouthful explodes with harmonious contrasts of flavour, texture and even temperature.
We’ve used Borella ‘Blue Wrap’ Penne, an authentic Italian wheat pasta made using traditional methods. Slowly air-dried rather than being rapidly dried with an intense heat (a common method with mass produced brands that causes the pasta to ‘cook’), the pasta retains its full flavour and all of its nutrients. As a result, Borella is also one of the hardest pastas on the market, which makes cooking it ‘al dente’ easy.
Similarly, selecting a quality extra virgin olive oil, made with freshly-picked olives, the minimal use of heat and sold within a year of production (like our exceptional Australian Hojiblanca EVOO), will elevate the flavour of any recipe it’s used in, and create something as delicious as it is wholesome and satisfying.
To make the basil oil, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Prepare a bowl of iced water and keep it beside the stove. Submerge the basil leaves into the boiling water and remove them after 20 seconds, plunging them straight into the bowl of iced water.
Drain the basil and wrap it in a tea towel or square of muslin cloth, squeezing out as much moisture as you can.
Use a blender to blitz together the basil and olive oil for at least 30 seconds, or until the oil is a vibrant green.
Strain the oil and basil mix through a fine-mesh strainer (or the muslin cloth) into a jug. Discard the basil pulp and transfer the basil oil to a squeeze bottle. The oil will seem a little cloudy and yellow after being blended, but will become clear again after around 30 minutes.
To make the pasta, remove the burrata from the fridge an hour before serving to prevent the cheese from cooling the pasta when served. Place the tomatoes in an oven-safe dish or frying pan, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, and roast in an oven preheated to 200C for 30 minutes, or until split and wrinkled.
Cut the pancetta into lardons. Place in a cold frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and warm slowly over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes (this will help render the fat, resulting in crispier pancetta).
Bring another large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet directions (note: whole wheat pasta generally take longer than commercial brands to cook).
As soon as it becomes just al-dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to the pancetta-filled pan, taking some of the pasta water with it. Add the roasted tomatoes and toss the pan until the pasta is coated with the emulsified water, olive oil and pancetta fat sauce. Grind some fresh pepper over the pasta, giving the pan a final toss, then serve in individual bowls.
Top each mound of pasta with a ball burrata, drizzle with basil oil, and finish with a few reserved basil leaves.
Serve with a salad of seasonal greens.