April 3, 2010

fusilli with roasted veggies and mozzarella

Growing up I spent most summers in a small town in Campania, south of Naples, where the day revolved around the afternoon meal or "pranzo".  Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of  my aunt's kitchen where we all tended to gravitate.

A large wooden board (called a "spianatoia" or "sch'cannatur" in dialect) was an essential tool in every kitchen and my aunt's was large enough to cover virtually the entire surface of the kitchen table.  I remember her heaping flour on the board, making a well in the middle and filling it with just the right number of eggs and measuring out water in the egg shells.  Without a single measuring cup or spoon, and nary an electric appliance in sight, she produced the most exquisite pastas for our lunch table.

Two of my favourites were (and still are) cavatelli and fusilli, both forms made by hollowing out a length of pasta.  In the case of fusilli, this is done by pressing a thin squared iron rod or "ferro" into a length of dough and applying just the right amount of pressure while rolling the ferro quickly back and forth.   These are a far cry from what often passes for fusilli in North America, which tend to be corkscrew shapes.  There are some regional variations which have a bit more of a spiral shape but my favourites are the ones you see here.

Shaping the fusilli is deceptively simple but it actually takes a lot of practice to get it right.  Luckily there are a number of artisanal pastas available in supermarkets and Italian groceries these days that are a worthy stand-in for fresh pasta (although if you are ever invited into an Italian home for homemade fusilli you are in for a real treat).

This version, made with store-bought fusilli tossed with roasted vegetables and fresh mozzarella, makes for a quick luscious meal that can be made in any season - paired with a glass of wine it's my idea of comfort food.

It's been awhile since I've made a submission to Presto Pasta Nights so I'm thrilled to be back, with Ruth from Once Upon a Feast hosting this week.  Check out the roundup on Friday.

Fusilli with roasted veggies and mozzarella

Serves 4 - 6

500 gr artisanal fusilli
3 tbsp olive oil
1 eggplant, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 shallots, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed
salt to taste

Toss eggplant, cherry tomatoes, shallots and garlic with the olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Spread in a baking sheet and bake in a 400°F oven for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are softened and the shallot caramelized.  Remove from oven and mash garlic with a fork.

While vegetables are roasting, cook fusilli according to package directions.  Drain, reserving about 250ml (1 cup) pasta water.

Toss pasta with roasted vegetables and mozzarella cubes, adding pasta water as necessary to loosen the sauce.  Serve immediately.


  1. this looks absolutely delicious!

  2. Thank you for this description of what real fusilli are supposed to be like. From looking at the photo, I can well imagine that it takes some practice to get them right.

    I love that your aunt measured the water for the pasta in the egg shells!


    P.S. Do you make your own mozzarella?

  3. I've never made my own mozzarella but I've seen it made by hand at a caseificio in Italy and I have to admit that I'm kind of lazy and I'd rather eat it than make it!

    Campania is famous for its fresh mozzarella which melts in your mouth, particularly the mozzarella bufala made from water buffalo milk. I've never tasted anything that comes close to it anywhere else and my mouth waters at the very thought!

  4. We are increasingly disappointed with the mozzarella for sale here - it's either very pricey or if it seems reasonably priced, it tastes pretty much like medium cheddar.

    But after watching some YouTube videos on how to make Mozarella, I can now understand why it is so expensive!

    I'd love to try Buffalo milk mozzarella! (Now my mouth is watering)