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Soft Mozzarella Poached with Tomatoes and Basil

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Serves 6

  • by Joanne Weir from Wine Country Cooking

Imagine soft, creamy, melting buffalo mozzarella surrounded by a pool of sweet tomato and basil sauce. Originally made in Southern Italy, buffalo mozzarella today is also made in the United States, often from a combination of water buffalo and cow's milk.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 lb. tomatoes (fresh or canned), peeled, seeded, chopped, and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 small balls fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese (about 3 oz. each), drained, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Sprigs of basil, for garnish
  • Crusty bread, for accompaniment
Tip:
If buffalo mozzarella is unavailable, try using fresh cow's milk mozzarella. If the mozzarella you purchase are larger than 3 oz. each, cut them to size.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard. Decrease the heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and begin to liquify. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth.

Twenty minutes before serving, bring the sauce to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place the mozzarella in the sauce so that it is half submerged. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 6 to 8 minutes.

In the meantime, cut the basil leaves into thin strips.

To serve, place a piece of warm mozzarella on each plate. Stir the basil into the sauce. Spoon the sauce around the mozzarella. Garnish with the basil sprigs and serve immediately with the bread.

Photo: Richard Jung

I made this with a large can of San Marzano tomatoes and one fresh tomato. I used 6 cloves of garlic, and left them in after sauteeing. Aside from that, I followed the recipe precisely. The cheese did water down the sauce quite a bit when it melted, so there was some thin sauce on the plate along with the nice thick sauce (next time, I'll spoon out the watery bits before serving...). I brushed some crusty bread with a little garlic oil from the pan, and then topped it with a little shredded Pecorino, herbs, and S&P, then broiled it for garlic bread. A really lovely dinner! Will definitely make this again.

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