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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
No-cook pasta sauce a summer recipe must

Thursday, May 24, 2001


While visiting her mother's friend in a nursing home recently, Mary Tambellini was reminded of an old recipe.

The woman was reminiscing about a time she'd been invited to Tambellini's home for lunch -- and remembering a simple, tasty pasta dish she'd been served.

Tambellini pulled out the old recipe and tweaked it a bit, switching from brie to mozzarella. Her resulting Pasta With Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella will be the perfect way to use the bounties of this year's upcoming home garden harvest.

We used vine-ripened tomatoes from the grocery store, and they tasted good, but we think the homegrown tomatoes that will be ripe later this summer would be even better.

Also, the instructions call for making the tomato sauce and then letting it stand for 30 minutes. This violates Countdown rules, which call for the entire process to be completed in 30 minutes. We set a timer for 30 minutes, spent just over 10 minutes making the sauce, then allowed the sauce to stand until the timer rang. The sauce's flavors seemed well blended.

Tambellini, of Mt. Lebanon, has submitted two other winning Countdown recipes -- Meatball Soup and Spaghetti With Bacon and Peas.

For her home-based business, Menu Magic, she creates personalized cookbooks for people, taking their interests and favorite foods into account to select special recipes for them.

Husband Ron is a broker with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Their children are Cara, 19, a student at Northwestern University; and Lea, 17, and Jess, 14, both students in the Mt. Lebanon School District.

For submitting this week's featured recipe, Tambellini wins a cookbook from the PG shelves. You could, too -- just follow the instructions below the recipe.

-- Tested by Rebecca Sodergren

Pasta With Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small dice
4 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne or spaghetti

In a bowl, toss the mozzarella with the tomatoes, olive oil, basil and kosher salt. Season generously with black pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a stockpot of water to boil. Salt the water and stir in the pasta. Boil, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce and toss very well. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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